Cardiovascular disease remains the top cause of death in the U.S., but research shows that South Asians are especially at risk for heart attacks even at younger ages.
In fact, South Asians represent 60% of global heart disease patients even though they make up about 25% of the world’s population.
Research has sought to learn more about why. People of South Asian descent have a increased genetic risk of heart attack. and many don’t have access to culturally appropriate nutrition education. Most dietary guidelines or healthy eating apps don’t account for the nuances of South Asian food culture.
“Even now, my mom will hide the oil because they don’t want us to find it and throw it away,” Advocate South Asian Cultural Center dietitian Sri Ramanathan told the Chicago Tribune.
“When you’re entertaining or serving your family, adding more oil is considered a sign of generosity,” Dr. Shoeb Sitafalwalla, director of the center, told the Tribune. “So when the pot of curry sits down on the table, if there isn’t an oil slick you can see, it’s not generous. What you don’t realize is you’re also being really generous in how you’ll clog up their arteries.”
All of these factors is why Dr. Sitafalwalla and Ramanathan are working on a project called “Dil Se,” a series of videos and recipes aimed at educating the South Asian community about how to eat healthier and try to avoid heart disease. “Dil Se” is a Hindi phrase meaning “from the heart” and can be heard in homes throughout the community as more oil is added to certain dishes. The project also doesn’t want people to eliminate dishes important to their culture.
“All of the choices that we lay out … are pragmatic ones,” Dr. Sitafalwalla told the Tribune. “We’re under no illusion that people are going to give up staple items that are culturally ingrained.”
Below are a few examples of the videos you can share on social media to try to spread the word.