Modifiable risk factors responsible for half of cardiovascular diseases

Scientists of the Global Cardiovascular Risk Consortium under the auspices of the Department of Cardiology at the University Heart & Vascular Center of the Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf (UKE) and participation of Cardio-CARE have shown that the five classic cardiovascular risk factors overweight, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, smoking, and diabetes mellitus are directly connected to more than half of all cardiovascular diseases worldwide. High blood pressure is the most important factor for the occurrence of heart attacks and strokes. The study’s results were published in the New England Journal of Medicine and are based on the data of 1.5 million persons from 34 countries.

The Global Cardiovascular Risk Consortium assessed the individual-level data of 1.5 million persons who took part in 112 cohort studies and originate from the eight geographical regions North America, Latin America, Western Europe, Eastern Europe and Russia, North Africa and the Middle East, Sub-Saharan Africa, Asia, and Australia. The objective of the study was to gain a better understanding of the global distribution, the significance of the individual risk factors and their effects on cardiovascular diseases, and overall mortality in order to derive targeted preventive measures. 

The study showed differences in the eight global regions regarding the frequency of the risk factors. The scientists saw the highest rates for overweight in Latin America, and the highest values for high blood pressure and high cholesterol in Europe. The risk factor smoking is particularly important in Latin America and Eastern Europe, diabetes mellitus in North Africa and in the Middle East. All five risk factors combined (overweight, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, smoking, and diabetes mellitus) amount to 57.2 per cent of women’s cardiovascular risk and to 52.6 per cent of men’s. In contrast, they only account for about 20 per cent of the risk to die (overall mortality).

Magnussen C. et al., Global Impact of Modifiable Risk Factors on Cardiovascular Disease and Mortality, New England Journal of Medicine, 2023. DOI: 10.1056/NEJMoa2206916.