Background: Ischemic heart disease (IHD) has been shown to be very uncommon in the population of Crete. Therefore, we established a research project in a rural part of Crete to survey the cardiovascular risk profile and follow the incidence of cardiovascular disease over time. This study investigated the prevalence of ECG abnormalities in the population of five villages and compared the prevalence of hypertension, obesity, diabetes, and hypercholesterolemia in those with and without ECG signs of IHD.
Methods: A cross-sectional study was conducted in a group from 15 to 79 years of age (n = 1218); overall attendance was 926 (76%). Studies included case history, clinical status, laboratory variables, and 12-lead ECG. Technically acceptable ECGs were read and coded blindly for 895 subjects (97%).
Results: Minnesota codes suggesting "Probable IHD" were recorded in 3.3% of the women and 3.5% of the men from 45 to 79 years of age. Hypertension was more common in subjects with than in those without "Probable IHD." This also tended to be the case for diabetes. Cholesterol and body mass index were relatively high in both groups.
Conclusions: The present prevalence of "Probable IHD" in Cretans appears to be very similar to that observed in other population surveys. Also, the contemporary cardiovascular risk factor profile in the population was quite unfavorable, with a relatively high prevalence of smoking, dyslipidemia, hypertension, and diabetes. The prevalence of "Probable IHD" was lowest in the village where the health center was situated (1% vs 4.5%), and this difference was also reflected in differences among the villages of some important risk factors for IHD as well as in the way patients with hypertension and other diseases were cared for. Thus, it seems IHD is becoming more prevalent in the "low risk" population of Crete. This may very well be a result of a more unfavorable lifestyle and a higher rate of risk factors than before.