Ethnicity modifies the association between diabetes mellitus and ischaemic heart disease in Chinese, Malays and Asian Indians living in Singapore

Diabetologia. 2006 Dec;49(12):2866-73. doi: 10.1007/s00125-006-0469-z. Epub 2006 Oct 5.


Aims/hypothesis: The aim of the study was to determine whether the risk of ischaemic heart disease (IHD) associated with diabetes mellitus differs between ethnic groups.

Methods: Registry linkage was used to identify IHD events in 5707 Chinese, Malay and Asian Indian participants from three cross-sectional studies conducted in Singapore between the years 1984 and 1995. The study provided a median of 10.2 years of follow-up with 240 IHD events experienced. We assessed the interaction between diabetes mellitus and ethnicity in relation to the risk of IHD events using Cox proportional hazards regression.

Results: Diabetes mellitus was more common in Asian Indians. Furthermore, diabetes mellitus was associated with a greater risk of IHD in Asian Indians. The hazard ratio when comparing diabetes mellitus with non-diabetes mellitus was 6.41 (95% CI 5.77-7.12) in Asian Indians and 3.07 (95% CI 1.86-5.06) in Chinese (p = 0.009 for interaction). Differences in the levels of established IHD risk factors among diabetics from the three ethnic groups did not appear to explain the differences in IHD risk.

Conclusions/interpretation: Asian Indians are more susceptible to the development of diabetes mellitus than Chinese and Malays. When Asian Indians do develop diabetes mellitus, the risk of IHD is higher than for Chinese and Malays. Consequently, the prevention of diabetes mellitus amongst this ethnic group is particularly important for the prevention of IHD in Asia, especially given the size of the population at risk. Elucidation of the reasons for these ethnic differences may help us understand the pathogenesis of IHD in those with diabetes mellitus.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Asians / statistics & numerical data
  • Blood Pressure
  • China / ethnology
  • Cohort Studies
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Diabetes Mellitus / epidemiology*
  • Diabetes Mellitus / mortality
  • Diabetes Mellitus / physiopathology
  • Diabetic Angiopathies / epidemiology*
  • Diabetic Angiopathies / mortality
  • Diabetic Angiopathies / physiopathology
  • Ethnicity*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hypertension / epidemiology
  • India / ethnology
  • Malaysia / ethnology
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Myocardial Ischemia / epidemiology*
  • Myocardial Ischemia / mortality
  • Myocardial Ischemia / physiopathology
  • Risk Factors
  • Singapore / epidemiology
  • Survival Analysis