Background: Physical inactivity and raised blood lipids are two powerful risk factors for coronary heart disease (CHD). Incidence and mortality from CHD are expected to increase in developing countries. However, studies on the prevalence of cardiovascular risk factors in Africa are rare. In this study we examined the level of physical activity and serum lipids in rural and urban Tanzanians.
Methods: Rural and urban inhabitants, n=985, mean age 43.8 years [SD, +/-8.9] were investigated. Physical activity level (PAL) was assessed by an interview-administered questionnaire and blood samples were collected and analysed for serum lipids.
Results: The rural population (n=501) reported a substantially higher PAL than the urban population (n=484). They also had significantly lower mean weight, body mass index (BMI), T-cholesterol, LDL-cholesterol, and HDL-cholesterol, T-cholesterol/HDL-cholesterol ratio, triglycerides and Apolipoprotein A-1.
Conclusion: This study demonstrates that the urban Tanzanians have a considerably lower physical activity level and a more unfavourable lipid pattern than rural Tanzanians. These findings underline the importance of undertaking preventive measures to counter the increasing incidence of CHD in urban African populations.