In Singapore, about 18 per cent of adults aged 18 to 69 years old have high blood cholesterol – a condition that increases the risk for diseases such as stroke and diabetes.

A research team from SingHealth Polyclinics (SHP) surveyed 1,093 local Chinese, Malay and Indian patients with high blood cholesterol and found that adherence to medication to be the most critical factor in lowering their blood cholesterol levels. 81.8 per cent of Chinese, 69.7 per cent of Indian and 69 per cent of Malay patients who reached their treatment goals said they took their pills as instructed.

The study reported that other factors affecting the goals, such as exercise and diet, impacted patients with certain ethnicities more than others. Furthermore, smoking was proven a big barrier, with significantly more Chinese and Malay smokers failing to achieve treatment goals.

Dr Tan Ngiap Chuan, director of research at SHP led the study.  He said the findings could prompt doctors to prioritise discussion of starting or adjusting medications with their patients, and ensure that patients are taking the medications as directed. Dr Tan said: "We usually focus on other lifestyle factors first. We may switch the order now."

With the findings, the SHP research team hopes to increase patients’ and physicians’ awareness of ethnic-specific risk factors and provide an insight to the benefits of ethnic-specific interventions. They are looking at conducting further research into the reasons for ethnic disparities