Asians Get Heart Disease Younger than People in the West : My Perspective

Posted by NikH

I am reflecting upon the article in today’s Singapore Straits Times newspaper article headlined,”Heart Patients in Singapore Younger than those in West.” The article states that studies have shown that in general Asians end up with cardiac problems in their 60s while their western counterparts develop issues a decade older. It is also a known fact that metabolic diseases like Type II Diabetes is more prevalent among Asians than Caucasians. There is a false presumption that since Asians are mostly skinnier, they should be actually healthier. Below is the article headlined “Heart Patients in Singapore Younger than those in West”, Straits Times 03 June 2014.

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Alarming is not the message in the article, but the fact that it admits that “doctors do not know why”. The reporter even got quote from a university professor, and she could only articulate findings, but has no opinion of the possible causes of this phenomenon. If professionals cannot give answers, do we have hope?

What we can derive from Biochemistry

There is some scientific theories to help us answer the question: why small-framed skinny people are more at risk of metabolic diseases  like type 2 diabetes and CHD (coronary heart disease ).

1. Inability to put on fat  Many Asians have small frames and have ectomorphic somatype. They are naturally skinny, and cannot put on much weight. They seem to be able to over-eat and “get away with it”. Remember that when we eat more than we can consume, the extra energy from our food turns into fat. This means that fat accumulation in the adipose tissues (fat under the skin) is a kind of dumping ground for extras. It is also good to note that getting fat is not a sickness. In fact fat accumulated under the skin is totally harmless. It is not pretty, but it would not hurt you metabolically. If you have the type of body that finds it difficult to put away excess calories into fat cells. You have a problem. The excess calories hang around, circulating in your bloodstream, clogging up arteries over time.

2. Naturally low muscle mass Ectomorphs have problem growing muscle. They are born small, and their muscle mass are generally lower than that of Caucasians. Muscles are metabolic powerhouses. They burn energy throughout the day. When your body is able to use energy, there is less need to  put away excess energy.

3. Asian diets are low in protein It is a myth that the Asian diet is at all healthy. Asians today tend to go cheap on food. The problem with this kind of thinking is that cheap food is generally very low in protein content.  Protein is essential for regeneration of tissues, and muscle function. A diet low in protein aggravates the problem of low muscle mass pointed out earlier.

4. Asian diets are high in refined carbohydrates   Going cheap on food, even means compromise on the quality of carbohydrates in the diet. Refined carbohydrates (like noodles) and starchy grains (like rice) are staple food in Asia. The problem with poor quality carbohydrate foods is that they are energy rich but nutrient poor. This means eating a snack of instant noodles, for example, gives you 400 cals of extra energy which you have to get rid off somehow, while providing no nutrient for muscle regeneration. I have written quite a bit about the dangers of habitually consume refined carbohydrates. The small  body frame, plus the Asian diet and lifestyle, puts us at a disadvantage to the rest of the world in terms of cardio-vascular risk.

Who is at risk?

When we come across such articles in the news, we can do 2 things:

  1. go figure out what the facts are, or
  2. do nothing, and believe that every cause of our health problems are because of “genetics”.

If you are a small-framed Asian person, and if you have the habit of swallowing large bowls of noodles and rice, snack on instant noodles and bread rolls, and if your exercise regime is null or even jogging on the weekends, you’ve got a potential health problem looming. That kind of lifestyle can lead to :

  • Constant high blood sugar due to dietary refined carbohydrate in meals.
  • High insulin levels leading to a risk of Type 2 diabetes,
  • More fat produced in the liver leading to higher levels of LDL (low density lipoprotein). LDL is miss-termed as “bad cholesterol”. High levels of LDL in the blood is marker for CHD risk.
  • Muscle degeneration with age due to lack of strength building exercise plus high insulin in blood.
  • A viscous cycle of degeneration of muscles (leading to lowered metabolism) plus more circulating LDLs in the blood ensues.

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What you can do to avoid being part of the statistic

Change your lifestyle: Change your diet. Do strength training exercises to build your muscles. 1. Change Your Diet Immediately Cut refined carbohydrates, and starchy grains and starchy vegetables from your diet. Check out these articles: Refined Carbs – List of Foods to Avoid if You Want to Lose Weight Fast and ForeverHow Refined Carbs, Sugar in Diet Contribute to Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease. Eat more protein, good fats and fresh vegetables. Read also: Dietary Sources of Fat: Good Fats vs Bad Fats 2.  Build muscles, don’t burn them Exercise is important, but you have to do the right kind of exercise. Strength building exercises are necessary if you need to put on muscle weight. Start with these workout here: 4 Best Exercises to Gain Strength Note: Endurance type exercises like running and cycling actually do not help you gain muscles. Those kinds of exercise, done in excess, burns muscles, lowering metabolism. 3. Do whatever you can to alleviate stress Stress hormone, cortisol, inhibits muscle regeneration, and contributes to metabolic problems. The Asian lifestyle is known to be more stressful than those of people in the West. Removing stress from your life is more challenging than, say, taking time off for meditation. It requires ” live and let live” mindset. This subject lies beyond the scope of this blog post, but you can read it here:  What do You Really Want? Is it a Need? Knowing this Can Change Your Life 

If the Doctors cannot Answer Your Questions…

Quick Reference Guide — Other Articles in this blog:

Fat Burning Foods? How to eating these can help you stay lean.

What is the Real Cause of Gout? Biochemistry Links Obesity, Cardiovascular Disease and Gout

How to lose fat, get and stay lean 365 days in a year : Diet Truths and Myths

Bad Cholesterol and Cardiovascular Disease Risk: Which is to blame? Dietary Fat or Carbs?

Why Thin People Should Be More Careful About Diet and Exercise