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Pasifika heart health

Tuesday 6 October 2020 12:43pm

Research Fellows Dr Moritz Lassé and Dr Allamanda Faatoese have been awarded a two-year Heart Foundation project grant ($157,549) to support their study looking at concentrations of the heart health marker, NT-proBNP, in Pasifika.

Dr Moritz Lassé image 2020Dr Moritz Lassé

There is an urgency to address heart health among Pasifika communities in Aotearoa. National statistics show higher rates of heart disease events and death among this population. According to Dr Lassé, the number of deaths from cardiovascular diseases have been declining over the past half century, but they are declining more slowly in Pasifika.

“This suggests that Pasifika have benefitted less than other ethnicities from the advances in screening and management of these health conditions. Death rates from ischaemic heart disease are two-fold higher in Pasifika and Māori compared with European NZers,” he said.

The blood marker, NT-proBNP, is not normally measured when you go to the doctor for your heart health check-up, but it is tested to diagnose heart disease so the doctor can continue to monitor your heart, and prescribe the right medication at the right time. Now, heart doctors and leading scientists think that NT-proBNP should be included as part of normal heart health check-ups to assess the risk of future heart disease for the patient.

Allamanda Faatoese image 2020Dr Allamanda Faatoese

“In a study of 300 heart-healthy participants, we observed that concentrations of NT-proBNP in Pasifika are only half compared with those of European NZers. We think that the test may be underestimating the risk of future heart disease in Pasifika,” said Dr Lassé. In this important study, funded by the Heart Foundation, we are trying to understand why NT-proBNP levels are lower in Pasifika than in European NZers.

“We will investigate if NT-proBNP assays perform less accurately for Pasifika, what the reason for that may be and whether something in our DNA could contribute to the observed anomaly between Pasifika and European NZers,” Dr Lassé said.

This project aims to improve equality of health outcomes for Pasifika patients when NT-proBNP concentrations are measured as part of clinical care.