Cardiovascular disease is one of the leading causes of death in Singapore. Cardiovascular disease-related deaths have been increasing and in 2021, accounted for 32% of all deaths locally. 

There is a greater need for more research into the disease, and a better understanding of how a person’s genetic make-up can be an early predictor of the disease and influence clinical treatments and outcomes.

“Currently, there is limited understanding of the factors contributing to heart disease in Asians. Conventional knowledge of predisposing risk factors for cardiovascular disease had been derived from large, prospective, population-based studies with Western-dominated sample sizes. There is a critical need for personalised prevention, diagnosis and treatment tailored for Asian hearts,” said Associate Professor Yeo Khung Keong, Senior Consultant at the National Heart Centre Singapore (NHCS).

“Ethnicity, with its accompanying differences in culture and diet, has long been known to be a contributing factor towards cardiovascular conditions. With various other clear evidence on a unique Asian disease profile, further and advanced research is needed,” A/Prof Yeo added.

To address the gap in research on Asian ethnic groups, A/Prof Yeo initiated SingHEART in 2015, a study which aims to shed light on cardiovascular disease within an Asian population. It is the first population-based study in Asia, which involves a multi-ethnic, healthy Asian population, and the use of latest technologies – including genomics, lipidomics, advanced imaging, wearable data and data analytics. The study aims to recruit 5,000 patients based on feasibility and funding availability. 

It collects and tracks healthy Singaporeans and other Asians’ genetics, cardiac anatomy, physical activity, blood pressure and other basic clinical data, and study how genetics/ genomics interact with these features and influence clinical outcomes. As of December 2021, more than 1,000 patients have been recruited.

With the data collected, it will help improve the understanding of Asian population’s genetic make-up; allows prediction on patients who are at risk to develop heart diseases and risk stratification, so as to implement effective, precise and personalised treatment. 

In 2021, SingHEART received a generous $1 million gift made in memory of Mr Henry H L Kwee, towards supporting ‘Predicting Heart Disease in Asian Population’ – a project under SingHEART. This will allow researchers to gain a deeper understanding of the complex interactions between cardiovascular disease and individuals’ risk factors.

“We are greatly appreciative of this significant gift which will enable us to better identify at-risk Asians early and develop more targeted and effective treatment for them through in-depth data analysis. With the philanthropic support from individuals, it will significantly help clinicians and scientists understand the interaction on genes and lifestyle, for the causes of heart diseases.”

The ‘Predicting Heart Disease in Asian Population’ – a project under SingHEART is funded with philanthropic support, made in memory of Mr Henry H L Kwee.