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Ethnicity and coronary heart disease: making sense of risk and improving care

Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is predicted to become the dominant cause of death and disability across the globe over the next decade. With an apparently disproportionate susceptibility to cardiovascular disease, the causes and prevention of CVD is of critical importance to minority ethnic groups. This paper examines the complex interplay between the biological, psychosocial and behavioural causes of CVD, and considers the need for culturally appropriate services to increase awareness of coronary risk factors and support healthier lifestyles.

Key messages:

  • Cardiovascular disease, such as coronary heart disease, has significant consequences for individuals, their families and health care organisations. It is predicted that cardiovascular disease will become the dominant cause of death and disability across the globe over the next decade and beyond
  • Five coronary risk factors contribute to 80 per cent of coronary heart disease cases. Less is known about why such risk factors vary in their potency across different ethnic groupings. A better understanding of the influence of social context is fundamental, especially when developing interventions aimed at reducing the risk of coronary heart disease
  • People from minority ethnic groups living in the UK seem to differ from the general population in their susceptibility to cardiovascular disease. Ethnicity is recognised as a risk factor for developing coronary heart disease, although the evidence suggests that the relationship between the two is complex
  • There is a need to develop culturally appropriate services to increase people’s awareness of coronary risk factors and to support people to live a healthier lifestyle. Understanding the complex dynamic of service delivery is the challenge facing policy and practice


  • The burden of cardiovascular disease
  • Understanding risk factors for coronary heart disease
  • Ethnicity as a coronary risk factor
  • Making changes for life

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Author(s): Felicity Astin; Karl Atkin
Briefing series: Better Health Briefing Paper 16
Publisher: Race Equality Foundation
Publication date:  February 2010