Background: Cardiovascular diseases (CVDs) are becoming increasingly significant in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA). Reliable measures of the contribution of major determinants are essential for informing health services and policy solutions.
Objective: To perform a systematic review of all longitudinal studies of CVDs and related risk factors that have been conducted in SSA.
Data source: We searched electronic databases from 1966 to October 2009. Published studies were retrieved from PubMed and Africa EBSCO. Reference lists of identified articles were scanned for additional publications.
Study selection: Any longitudinal study with data collection at baseline on major cardiovascular risk factors or CVD, including 30 or more participants, and with at least six months of follow up were included.
Data extraction: Data were extracted on the country of study, year of inception, baseline evaluation, primary focus of the study, outcomes, and number of participants at baseline and final evaluation.
Results: Eighty-one publications relating to 41 studies from 11 SSA countries with a wide range of participants were included. Twenty-two were historical/prospective hospitalbased studies. These studies focused on risk factors, particularly diabetes mellitus and hypertension, or CVD including stroke, heart failure and rheumatic heart disease. The rate of participants followed through the whole duration of studies was 72% (64-80%), with a significant heterogeneity between studies (for heterogeneity, p < 0.001). Outcomes monitored during follow up included trajectories of risk markers and mortality.
Conclusions: Well-designed prospective cohort studies are needed to inform and update our knowledge regarding the epidemiology CVDs and their interactions with known risk factors in the context of common infectious diseases in this region.