Background: Also in Mediterranean countries, which are considered a low risk population for cardiovascular disease (CVD), the increase in body mass index (BMI) has become a public health priority. To evaluate the feasibility of a CVD and obesity surveillance network, forty General Practitioners (GPs) were engaged to perform a screening to assess obesity, cardiovascular risk, lifestyle habits and medication use.
Methods: A total of 1,046 women and 1,044 men aged 35-74 years were randomly selected from GPs' lists stratifying by age decade and gender. Anthropometric and blood pressure measurements were performed by GPs using standardized methodologies. BMI was computed and categorized in normal weight (BMI 18.5-24.9 kg/m2), overweight (BMI 25.0-29.9 kg/m2) and obese (BMI > or = 30 kg/m2). Food frequency (per day: fruits and vegetables; per week: meat, cheese, fish, pulses, chocolate, fried food, sweet, wholemeal food, rotisserie food and sugar drink) and physical activity (at work and during leisure time) were investigated through a questionnaire. CVD risk was assessed using the Italian CUORE Project risk function.
Results: The percentage of missing values was very low. Prevalence of overweight was 34% in women and 50% in men; prevalence of obesity was 23% in both men and women. Level of physical activity was mostly low or very low. BMI was inversely associated with consumption of pulses, rotisserie food, chocolate, sweets and physical activity during leisure time and directly associated with consumption of meat. Mean value of total cardiovascular risk was 4% in women and 11% in men. One percent of women and 16% of men were at high cardiovascular risk (> or = 20% in 10 years). Normal weight persons were four times more likely to be at low risk than obese persons.
Conclusion: This study demonstrated the feasibility of a surveillance network of GPs in Italy focusing on obesity and other CVD risk factors. It also provided information on lifestyle habits, such as diet and physical activity.