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Int J Cardiol. 2012 Jul 12;158(2):205-10. doi: 10.1016/j.ijcard.2011.01.022. Epub 2011 Feb 24.

Elevated risk factors but low burden of heart disease in urban African primary care patients: a fundamental role for primary prevention.

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  • 1Preventative Health, Baker IDI Heart and Diabetes Institute, Melbourne, Australia.



Few data describe the case burden of heart disease and cardiovascular risk factors relative to other conditions in urban Africans seeking primary health care.


A clinical registry captured data on 1311 consecutive primary care patients (99% African) from two primary care clinics in Soweto, South Africa. Those with suspected sub-clinical heart disease had more advanced cardiologic assessment.


Overall, 862 women (66%, 41 ± 16 years) and 449 men (38 ± 14 years) were studied. Whilst more men were smokers (47% vs. 14%; OR 5.23, 95% CI 4.01-6.82), more women were obese (42% vs. 14%; OR 4.54, 95% CI 3.33-5.88); blood glucose levels doubling with age in obese women. Although 33% were hypertensive, only 4.9% had type 2 diabetes (n=45), heart disease (n=10) and/or cerebrovascular disease (n=12). Overall, 16% (n=205) had an abnormal 12-lead ECG with more men than women showing a major abnormality (24% vs. 11%; OR 2.63, 95% CI 1.89-3.46). Of 99 cases (7.6%) subject to advanced cardiologic assessment, 29 (2.2%) had newly diagnosed heart disease: including hypertensive heart failure (13 women vs. 2 men, OR 4.51 95% CI 1.00-21.2), coronary artery disease (n=3), valve disease (n=3), dilated cardiomyopathy (n=3) and 2 cases of acute myocarditis.


These data demonstrate a relatively low burden of heart disease in urban African patients seeking primary health care. Alternatively, high antecedent risk, particularly among obese women, highlights a key role for enhanced primary prevention.

Copyright © 2010 Elsevier Ireland Ltd. All rights reserved.

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