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Bad habits pose health risks to NRIs

A study says Indians who move to Scotland soon contract heart diseases because they adopt the bad lifestyle habits of local Scots.

india Updated: Dec 13, 2007 13:15 IST

People of Indian origin who move to Scotland soon contract heart diseases because they are quick to adopt the bad lifestyle habits of local Scots, such as poor diet, according to new research.

A study by Edinburgh University and NHS National Services Scotland has suggested that people of Indian, Pakistani and Chinese origin adopt the bad lifestyle habits of Scots when they go to live there. But the same was not true of English people living in Scotland. They had a 20 per cent lower chance of dying from heart disease than those born there. The researchers said more needed to be done to explain the differences.

Colin Fischbacher, a public health medicine consultant, and his colleagues studied the death certificates of Scottish residents aged over 25 who died between 1997 and 2003. The results, published in the Scottish Medical Journal, showed English men living in Scotland had a 25 per cent lower death rate than Scottish-born residents, and a 22 per cent lower death rate from heart disease. Among women, heart deaths were 20 per cent lower.

Fischbacher said: "This difference could be because those who move are professionals and we can speculate they are not taking on Scottish lifestyles. Scots seem to have worse rates of heart disease than even our bad lifestyles would explain. Whatever the reason, the English moving to Scotland seem to escape it."

But the same was not true of Asians in Scotland. Fischbacher said people from India and China typically had a low risk of developing heart disease or stroke.

Fischbacher said it was deeply alarming that Scots of Asian origin, especially those from India and Pakistan, were now displaying equally high rates of cardiovascular disease as those in the country in which they now live. He said the trend might be because immigrants assume the more negative aspects of the unhealthy Scottish lifestyle.

He added: "People from Bangladesh, India, Pakistan and China are traditionally at low risk of developing stroke or heart disease. But we can speculate that by adopting a Scottish lifestyle, taking less exercise and eating less healthily, they may be putting themselves at greater risk of these often fatal conditions."

He said that the statistics on Scots of Asian origin will now be used to help deliver more targeted health care for the community in order to reduce heart disease levels.

"We need to think about reducing heart disease inequalities in Scotland. Overall the rates are falling but we need to provide extra help from those who are most at risk," Fischbacher said.

Men born in Pakistan but living in Scotland had a one per cent higher rate of heart disease deaths than Scottish-born men and 30 per cent higher than men living in England. Fischbacher said such ethnic groups tended to have higher rates of diabetes and were prone to abdominal obesity, factors that could make the risk of heart disease greater when they adopt unhealthy lifestyles.

Scotland has been dubbed the heart attack capital of the United Kingdom. A British Heart Foundation survey published this year revealed that deaths from heart attacks are almost 70 per cent higher among men in some parts of Scotland compared with men in the South East of England, where there were 34.25 heart disease deaths per 100,000 men under 65.

In Scotland, the rate rose to almost 57 deaths per 100,000, and in Inverclyde it was 94.34 per 100,000. The report also showed that in Scotland a new heart attack victim occurs on average once every 15 minutes, and revealed that 10 percent of the population is believed to be living with some form of heart or circulatory disease.

The British Heart Foundation has welcomed the new study. Its director of prevention and care, Mike Knapton, said the information uncovered by the study could help to combat heart disease.

"This observation underlines the need to better untangle the relationship between our genes, our biology and our environment," he added.