STUDY OBJECTIVE: To establish the prevalence of main cardiovascular risk factors in the province of Gerona, where the incidence of myocardial infarction is known to be low. DESIGN: This was a cross sectional study of prevalence of cardiovascular risk factors conducted on a large random population sample. SETTING: The province of Gerona, Spain. PARTICIPANTS: Two thousand four hundred and four eligible inhabitants of Gerona aged between 25 and 74 years were randomly selected for a multi-stage sample stratified by age and sex. The following were standardly measured: lipids (total cholesterol, high density, low density, lipoprotein (a) and triglycerides), fibrinogen, basal glycaemia, arterial pressure, anthropometric variables, smoking, history of angina (Rose questionnaire), and a medical history questionnaire. Population measurements were standardised for the world population of 24 to 74 years of age. RESULTS: The participation rate was 72.7% (1748). Total mean cholesterol was 5.69 mmol/l in men and 5.61 mmol/l in women and mean high density cholesterol was 1.22 mmol/l and 1.47 mmol/l, respectively. Median lipoprotein (a) was 0.22 g/l. These three lipids increased significantly with age. Mean fibrinogen was 2.92 g/l in men and 3.09 g/l in women, and was higher in smokers. The prevalence of hypertension (systolic arterial tension > or = 140 mm Hg or diastolic > or = 90 mm Hg or drug treatment) was 31.3% in men and 27.7% in women. The proportion of male smokers was 33.8% and female smokers 22.7%. The proportion of female smokers in the 25-34 year age group exceeded that of the remaining age groups for both men and women. CONCLUSIONS: The prevalence of cardiovascular risk factors in Gerona is relatively high for the low myocardial infarction incidence typical of the area, although similar to that of other Spanish areas. The factors that confer sufficient protection to compensate for the effect of the prevalence of these risk factors remain to be elucidated.
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