Background and objective: Demographic changes in Germany will result in a marked rise in the prevalence of chronic diseases, presenting a central challenge in the coming decades. The ESTHER study on this question has as its objective to bring about innovative ways for the early recognition and prevention of diseases in the elderly. We herein give the concept of the study and the results of the basic enquiry.
Patients and methods: The ESTHER study includes 9961 persons, aged between 50 and 74 years, who had a health check-up by their general practitioner. Standardized questionnaires for doctors and patients were used in addition to the check-up test to provide extensive basic data on risk factors, previous illnesses, family history and relevant items on life style. Blood, urine and stool samples were kept for later testing
Results: This cohort had a high prevalence of known risk factors for various chronic diseases, especially of the cardiovascular system. 42% of the cohort already had a history of hypertension, 40% of hyperlipidaemia, 11% had diabetes mellitus and 9% coronary heart disease. There was an association with obesity (present in many). The check-up test newly diagnosed one of the diseases or the presence of relevant risk factors in 13.4%.
Conclusion: The high prevalence of risk factors for chronic diseases in the elderly underlines the urgency of stressing preventive measures. The ESTHER study - because of its long-term follow-up and saved specimens for later testing - provides an excellent basis for identifying new risk factors and risk indicators of chronic diseases.