Ethnicity a “risk-enhancing” factor under new guidelines

Doctor and African-American patient.

By American Heart Association News

As in most things, family matters. Specifically, your family’s ethnicity could make a difference, at least when it comes to cholesterol and your risk of having a heart attack or stroke.

In a recent update of cholesterol guidelines, a national panel of scientists and health experts stressed a more personalized approach to risk assessment, diagnosis and treatment. But for the first time, the guidelines also described race and ethnic backgrounds as “risk-enhancing factors” for specific U.S. populations.

“Ethnicity matters. We’ve known that for a while,” said Dr. Salim Virani, an associate professor of cardiology at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston and a writing committee member for the cholesterol guidelines. “What these guidelines do is bring that understanding to the forefront.”

The guidelines, issued in November by the American College of Cardiology, American Heart Association and 10 other health organizations, include a separate section that outlines how race and specific ethnic characteristics may influence a person’s risk of developing cardiovascular diseases. For example, South Asians living in the U.S. generally have lower levels of “good” HDL cholesterol than their white counterparts.

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