Aims: To analyse secular changes in the prevalence of coronary heart disease (CHD) and to assess changes in the burden of CHD at population level.
Methods and results: Data were used from two large cross-sectional health examination surveys representing the entire Finnish adult population in 1980 and 2000. In the 1978-80 survey, the sample covered 5101 individuals aged > or =45, of whom 88% participated. The 2000-2001 survey comprised 5310 individuals in the same age range. Participation rate in the health examination was 87%. Prevalence of CHD decreased in men and women under the age of 65 and increased among those aged > or =75. Prevalence of large Q-waves indicating previous myocardial infarction decreased in all male age groups and in women aged 65-74. The total estimated number of persons with CHD increased by 18% (95% CI=6-30) during the past 20 years in Finland. In 1980, the most dominant CHD group was men aged 45-64, whereas in 2000, women aged > or =75 comprised the largest CHD group.
Conclusion: Although the prevalence of CHD has decreased among middle-aged persons, the number of CHD cases has increased during the past 20 years in Finland.