Men of European descent over the age of 50 are most vulnerable to developing atherosclerosis, the most common cardiovascular disease (CVD).

Almost half of the men in this group had visible signs of coronary atherosclerosis, according to a new study of atherosclerosis in South Africa by scientists from the Department of Human Molecular Biology at the University of the Free State’s (UFS) School of Biomedical Sciences. arteries of the heart.

This was in contrast to about one in ten men and women of African descent in the same age group.

More than a third of women of European descent over the age of 50 had visible atherosclerosis of the coronary arteries.

The study was conceived in 2020 during the Covid-19 pandemic due to reports of excessive blood clots associated with both acute Covid-19 infection and certain vaccines.

The data was collected over several months in 2021 from more than 10,000 case files spanning 10 years. The investigation is still ongoing.

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One hypothesis regarding a possible explanation for the discrepancies is based on the theory that socio-economic status may be a driver of cardiovascular disease, as wealthier people in South Africa, historically those of European descent, have the means to afford and adopt lifestyles which contributes to the development of an increased risk of lifestyle diseases such as obesity, hypercholesterolemia and diabetes, which are associated with a higher risk of CVD.

“We hypothesize that cardiovascular disease-related mortality is traditionally lower among South Africans of African descent compared to other ethnic populations because of the historical socioeconomic disparity between people of African descent and other populations in high-income countries.” .

Factors associated with an increased risk of developing atherosclerosis include tobacco use, hypertension, high cholesterol, obesity, HIV infection, and diabetes.

“Atherosclerosis remains a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease and is therefore considered a good indicator of the cardiovascular disease profile in the population, but little is known about its prevalence in sub-Saharan African populations. We sought to determine the prevalence of atherosclerosis in a diverse South African population as revealed by post-mortem studies. A retrospective file audit was conducted on 10,240 forensic post-mortem reports from a forensic morgue in South Africa over a 10-year period,” said Dr Walter Janse van Rensburg, Senior Lecturer in the Department of Human Molecular Biology at the School of Biomedical Sciences. , UFS.

Cardiovascular disease is reported to be the leading cause of death worldwide, he said, and diseases of the circulatory system account for almost a fifth of all deaths in South Africa.

The study, however, also found that the prevalence of cardiovascular disease and the rate of premature death related to cardiovascular disease are steadily increasing in both rural and urban areas and across the socioeconomic spectrum.

“For all population groups, men are more affected than women in their demographic. Perhaps this can also be attributed to socio-economic status and access to health care and the gender gap in the country.”

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