Acculturation and Subclinical Atherosclerosis among U.S. South Asians:Findings from the MASALA study

Objective: Longer duration of residence among immigrants to the United States, a proxy measure of acculturation, has been associated with higher subclinical atherosclerosis. South Asian immigrants are the second fastest growing immigrant group in the U.S. but little is known about the effects of acculturation with atherosclerosis in this high cardiovascular risk population.
Methods: We conducted a cross-sectional analysis using data from a community-based cohort called the Mediators of Atherosclerosis in South Asians Living in America (MASALA) study. Participants (n=900) were between ages of 40-84 years and had no existing cardiovascular disease. We developed a multi-dimensional measure of acculturation in South Asians, called traditional cultural beliefs, and measured other proxy measures of acculturation to determine whether they were associated with higher levels of subclinical atherosclerosis after controlling for socioeconomic, behavior/lifestyle, and cardiovascular risk factors.
Results: Mean duration of residence in the U.S. was 27±11 years and tertiles of strength of traditional cultural beliefs were examined. Longer duration of U.S. residence was associated with higher levels of coronary artery calcium even after adjustment for covariates and lifestyle mediators. The novel measure of strength of traditional cultural beliefs was associated with lower common carotid intima media thickness among those with moderate traditional beliefs only.
Conclusions: These findings support the need for better conceptualization and measurement of how migration influences cultural beliefs and practices, and their subsequent influence on health behaviors and cardiovascular disease risk.

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