Cardiovascular risk factors in China: a nationwide population-based cohort study

Lancet Public Health. 2020 Dec;5(12):e672-e681. doi: 10.1016/S2468-2667(20)30191-2.


Background: It is estimated that 4 million deaths are due to cardiovascular diseases each year in China. Comprehensive understanding about modifiable risk factors and how the risk differs across regions is needed to inform public health policies. We aimed to examine the geographical profile of cardiovascular disease risk across China.

Methods: In this study, we analysed data from a nationwide, population-based screening project, which covered 152 rural counties and 100 urban districts from 31 provinces in China. Between Sept 1, 2015, and Nov 30, 2019, standardised measurements were taken from participants aged 35-75 years who had lived in the region for at least 6 of the preceding 12 months to collect information on blood pressure, blood lipids, blood glucose, physical activity, tobacco smoking, alcohol use, overweight or obesity, and intake frequencies of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, and red meat. Individuals with a high risk of cardiovascular disease were identified according to medical history and WHO risk prediction charts.

Findings: 983 476 individuals were included in this study. Among the participants included, 10·3% (95% CI 10·2-10·3) had a high cardiovascular disease risk after standardising age and sex, with a range of 3·1-24·9% across counties or districts. Among the seven regions in mainland China, the prevalence of high risk of cardiovascular disease was relatively high in northeast China (12·6% [12·4-12·8]) and north China (11·4% [11·3-11·6]), whereas it was low in south China (8·0% [7·8-8·2]). The geographical profiles of the 12 major cardiovascular disease risk factors were different. We found that the regions with high cardiovascular disease risk were facing challenges such as obesity and high blood pressure (north China) and consumption of unhealthy non-staple food (low intake of fruits and vegetables or high intake of red meat; northeast China). By contrast, south China-the region with the lowest cardiovascular disease risk-had the highest prevalence of unhealthy staple food (low intake of whole grains and beans), abnormal metabolism (glucose and lipid), and low physical activity in the country.

Interpretation: Risk for cardiovascular diseases varies geographically, and the major contributing risk factors are different across regions in China. Hence, geographically targeted interventions are needed to mitigate the risk and reduce the burden in such a vast country.

Funding: Ministry of Science and Technology, Ministry of Finance, and National Health Commission of China.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Alcohol Drinking / epidemiology
  • Blood Glucose
  • Blood Pressure
  • China / epidemiology
  • Diet
  • Exercise
  • Female
  • Health Behavior*
  • Heart Disease Risk Factors*
  • Humans
  • Lipids / blood
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Overweight / epidemiology
  • Prevalence
  • Residence Characteristics


  • Blood Glucose
  • Lipids