SANTA CLARA, Calif. (Diya TV) — Regardless of lifestyle, many South Asians face a genetic predisposition to heart disease and diabetes — something, the South Asian Heart Center is spearheading the fight against. During its 10th anniversary celebration gala, the center played host to a myriad of guests, and raised more than a quarter-million dollars to continue its work.

Since its inception in 2006, the South Asian Heart Center has screened nearly 6,000 participants, educated more than 1,500 physicians on the epidemiology of coronary artery disease and diabetes in the population, and published its findings in peer-reviewed journals. Patients like Nickhil Jakatdar, who visited the clinic on the counsel of his wife, often find their results are the polar opposite of what they expect to hear.

“I exercise a lot, I don’t drink, I don’t smoke. I thought I did all the right things,” Jakatdar told the assembled crowd at the gala, which was held at the Santa Clara Convention Center. “They did the test and they said they’d get back to me in about three days,” he said. “That same night, I got a call, and learned that my results were really bad.”

He soon learned that he faced the same predisposition to heart disease and diabetes that a staggering number of South Asians endure.

The Center’s proven program has resulted in healthier lifestyle behaviors in the community, and reduced heart disease and diabetes risk in its program participants. Ashish Mathur, the center’s co-founder and executive director, was on hand and told Diya TV that the 6,300 participants the center has helped are living much healthier lifestyles now. He founded the initiative after overcoming his own health issues.

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“We are now at 6,300 participants who have gone through the program and benefited by getting counseling and education around lifestyle, implementing that in their lives, and making a change to their risk, and to heart events in their future,” he said.

Recent studies have shown that heart disease plagues South Indians with such staggering figures, that it is by far the leading cause of death among them.

Physician and author Dr. Ronesh Sinha delivered the evening’s keynote address, and spoke candidly about how the community of South Indians can combat and fight against these deadly genetics.

“We do need to inherit some traditions from our family, but we can’t selectively choose the ones that don’t match our metabolic needs,” he said, adding how much of an impact just a simple change of a diet can impact heart health. “If you mix carbohydrates with healthy fats and proteins, you have a different effect on blood sugar. The problem is when you just eat a pure carb that doesn’t have anything else around it, like a bowl of white rice, if you have a salad before that, or mix vegetables into your rice, it has a totally different effect on your blood sugar.”

For Jakatdar, its been only four months, but he’s already seen immediate results, and is on the fast track to improving his heart and long-term health, tenfold. The lesson he wants to share is a cautionary one, that he says applies to anyone of South Asian descent.

“Appearances are deceptive, just go get yourself tested. It takes 15 minutes, and you might find something that allows you to be around for the long-term versus being a statistic.”

The Center’s goal is to reach 8,500 participants by June 2017 and to double its volume to 2,000 per year. In addition to the flagship office at El Camino Hospital in Mountain View, the South Asian Heart Center has already established a presence at the India Community Center in Milpitas and has opened a branch near El Camino Hospital Los Gatos. Fremont will be the location of the fourth site, scheduled to open in spring 2016.

Ravi Kapur, Deepti Dawar and Jeff Knapp contributed to this story.