Risk factors for major ischaemic heart disease (acute myocardial infarction or sudden death) have been investigated in a prospective study of 7735 men aged 40-59 years drawn from general practices in 24 British towns. After a mean follow-up of 4.2 years, there have been 202 cases of major ischaemic heart disease. Univariate estimates of the risk of ischaemic heart disease show that serum total cholesterol, HDL-cholesterol and triglyceride concentrations, systolic and diastolic blood pressures, cigarette smoking, and body mass index are all associated with increased risk of ischaemic heart disease. Evidence of ischaemic heart disease at initial examination is also strongly associated with increased risk of subsequent ischaemic heart disease. All these factors were then considered simultaneously using multiple logistic models. Definite myocardial infarction on electrocardiogram and recall of a doctor diagnosis of ischaemic heart disease remained predictive of subsequent major ischaemic heart disease, after allowance for all other risk factors. Serum total cholesterol, blood pressure, and cigarette smoking each remained as highly significant independent risk factors whereas overweight, above average levels of HDL-cholesterol and serum triglyceride were not predictive of risk after allowance for the above factors. Men with and without pre-existing ischaemic heart disease were examined separately in the same way (using multiple logistic models). The strength of association between the principal risk factors and subsequent major ischaemic heart disease was reduced in the men with pre-existing ischaemic heart disease, only age and serum total cholesterol remaining highly significant. Overall the levels of the major risk factors commonly encountered in British men have a marked effect on the risk of ischaemic heart disease. Modification of these risk factors in the general population constitutes an important national priority.
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