Objective: To demonstrate trends in cardiovascular risk factors in the population of former East Germany.
Patients and methods: As part of the international World Health Organisation's MONICA project ("MONItoring of Trends and Determinants of CArdiovascular Disease"), cross-sectional studies of independent random samples were undertaken, during three periods between 1982 and 1994, among the 24-64 year age groups in the population of East Germany. Those examined were 8470 (1982-1984), 9533 (1987-1989) and 2330 (1991-1994) men and women aged 25-64 years living in 17 regions (until 1989) and three regions (since 1991), respectively. Each person had standardized blood pressure measurements, His/her weight and height were measured, a blood sample was taken, and each was given a standardized interview by trained personnel.
Results: The prevalence of hypertension, ca. 30% overall, was relatively high. There was, however, a tendency over time towards a reduced prevalence among the women, from 29% to 25% (P < 0.05). The proportion of effectively treated hypertensives was clearly too low: 12-14% among men, 20-25% among women. There was a slightly downward trend in the frequency of hypercholesterolaemia (> 6.7 mmol/l), but it was statistically significant only for women. The proportion of markedly overweight persons (body mass index > or = 30) was not significantly reduced. The frequency of regular smokers decreased among men from 41% to 35% (P < 0.05), while among women (especially those in the younger age groups) there was a slight increase.
Conclusions: Despite the known importance of risk factors, their prevalence was not significantly changed in East Germany over a period about 10 years. More effort and population-related primary prevention of coronary heart disease will thus be required, particularly in view of the risk factors cigarette smoking and hypertension.