The population health researcher

South Asian people are at higher risk of heart disease Dr Danish Saleheen is Lecturer in Cardiovascular Genomics at the University of Cambridge. His work involves studying why South Asians are at an increased risk of heart attacks and stroke.

My motivation

I have quite a few close relatives who’ve suffered from heart attacks, strokes or diabetes. Also, being a Pakistani myself, I’m interested in finding out why people from South Asia are more vulnerable to heart attacks and strokes than Europeans.

My research

We want to understand why people from the Indian subcontinent are more likely to get atherosclerosis than Europeans. We know that South Asians living in the UK are more likely to die from heart disease than the rest of the population but we don’t fully understand why.

We know that South Asians living in the UK are more likely to die from heart disease than the rest of the population but we don’t fully understand why

People from Pakistan have an increased risk not just of atherosclerosis but of diabetes and strokes too. Until recently, large, detailed studies of heart attacks and strokes in South Asians hadn’t been carried out.

What it involves

About six years ago we started a large study of heart attacks and strokes in people living in Pakistan. It involves collecting detailed information on more than 35,000 people. So far, we’ve identified five new genes that increase the risk of atherosclerosis and six new genes that increase the risk of diabetes.

We’re also examining lifestyle factors such as rates of smoking, dietary habits and socio-economic differences as well as other blood-based factors like low levels of HDL cholesterol, which is the protective type. While we’re specifically studying the Pakistani population, these results should bring benefits worldwide in helping us understand more about the risk of atherosclerosis in all ethnic groups.

What it means for you

Dr Danish SaleheenWe hope we’ll be able to better understand the causes of heart attacks and stroke in people from South Asia and come up with better ways of preventing and treating these disorders in these populations.

Read about Peter Weinberg's research into how atherosclerosis affects the artery lining

Read about Nilesh Samani's research into genetic links to heart disease

Read about Martin Bennett's clinical trials into which types of fatty plaques are most dangerous

Read about patient Abdul Khan's experience of heart disease

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