5 May 2018

Māori, Pasifika and South Asians at greater risk of cardiovascular disease - study

12:55 pm on 5 May 2018

New Zealand researchers have found a much more effective way to calculate heart attack and stroke risk in this country.

A study involving more than 400,000 New Zealanders aged between 30-74 has created a new equation to measure cardiovascular disease risk.

The research by Auckland University's School of Population Health has been published in the medical journal, The Lancet today.

Lead Author, Professor Rod Jackson said the study has been 21 years in the making and he hoped the new equation would soon be rolled out across the country.

He said currently doctors are using equations which were created from a study in the US, using just 5,000 participants.

Since its implementation in New Zealand during the early 1990s our heart attack and stroke stats have fallen dramatically, said Professor Jackson.

"Our risks predicted by the new equations are approximately half the risks predicted by the old equations.

"That means if you saw a GP five years ago and had your risk predicted it was probably about double what it should have been, so these new equations will have a major effect on the information GPs give to their patients," he said.

However, it's not all good news, the study also identified groups which are at greater risk than others.

"Māori, Pacific and South Asians have risks up to 50 percent higher than Europeans, even when you take all the other risk factors into account - that kind of information could only come out of a New Zealand study," he said,

He said the new equations take into account ethnicity, as well as deprivation levels, which was also an indicator.

It's the first study of its kind in New Zealand, gathering information through GPs and individual patients National Health Index (NHI) numbers.

Every New Zealander has their own unique NHI number which their medical information is attached to.

Professor Jackson said New Zealand was unique that it could conduct such a large study with such a small population.

A large contributing factor was the fact public health records were kept on a digital database.

He believed the data gathered here in New Zealand would be used overseas as well.

"Australia is the obvious place to implement our equations, because their risks of heart disease for the majority of their population is very similar to ours, they can't do this research because their systems aren't set up to do this research, he said.

There will be a flood of studies like this in the future, once countries develop systems to access data like New Zealand, he said.