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Int J Epidemiol. 2001 Oct;30 Suppl 1:S35-40.

Trends in coronary risk factors in the WHO MONICA project.

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  • 1Department of Epidemiology and Public Health, The Queen's University of Belfast, Mulhouse Building, Belfast BT12 6BJ, UK.



The World Health Organization (WHO) MONICA Project was established to determine how trends in event rates for coronary heart disease (CHD) and, optionally, stroke were related to trends in classic coronary risk factors. Risk factors were therefore monitored over ten years across 38 populations from 21 countries in four continents (overall period covered: 1979-1996).


A standard protocol was applied across participating centres, in at least two, and usually three, independent surveys conducted on random samples of the study populations, well separated within the 10-year study period.


Smoking rates decreased in most male populations (35-64 years) but in females the majority showed increases. Systolic blood pressure showed decreasing trends in the majority of centres in both sexes. Mean levels of cholesterol generally showed downward trends, which, although the changes were small, had large effects on risk. There was a trend of increasing body mass index (BMI) with half the female populations and two-thirds of the male populations showing a significant increase.


It is feasible to monitor the classic CHD risk factors in diverse populations through repeated surveys over a decade. In general, the risk factor trends are downwards in most populations but in particular, an increase in smoking in women in many populations and increasing BMI, especially in men, are worrying findings with significant public health implications.

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