We aimed to determine whether lead exposure was associated with cardiovascular diseases (CVD) and risk factors in Chinese adults. Five thousand three hundred and forty-eight subjects were enrolled from 16 sites in China. Blood lead level (BLL) was measured by atomic absorption spectrometry. Cardiovascular diseases included coronary heart disease, stroke, and myocardial infarction. Cardiovascular risk factors included body mass index (BMI), fasting plasma glucose (FPG), lipid profile, and blood pressure. We found that 5.9% of the study population had prevalent CVD. Medians (interquartile range) of BLLs were 44.00 μg/L (29.00-62.48) for men and 37.70 μg/L (25.00-54.60) for women. The prevalence of CVD gradually and markedly increased with increasing BLL quartiles in women (P for trend < 0.01), but not in men. After adjustment for age, current smoking, and drinking, BLLs were independently associated with cardiovascular risk factors including BMI, FPG, and blood pressure in women (all P < 0.05), but not in men. Binary logistic regression showed that increased quartiles of BLL were significantly and positively associated with increased odds ratio of prevalent CVD (P for trend < 0.01) in women. This association was independent of age, smoking, drinking, education, diabetes, obesity, hypertension, and lipid profile. In conclusion, BLL in the range currently considered acceptable is independently associated with CVD, which is the leading cause of death in China. Further practical and cost-effective efforts to reduce lead exposure may be warranted.
Keywords: Cardiovascular diseases; Cardiovascular risk factors; Chinese; Lead exposure; Women.