The prevalence of ischaemic heart disease was determined by an administered questionnaire and electrocardiography in 7735 men aged 40-59 years drawn at random from general practices in 24 British towns. Overall, one quarter of these men had some evidence of ischaemic heart disease on questionnaire or electrocardiogram or both. On questionnaire, 14% of men had possible myocardial infarction or angina, with considerable overlap of the two syndromes. The prevalence of possible myocardial infarction combined with angina and of definite angina only showed a fourfold increase over the age range studied. Electrocardiographic evidence of ischaemic heart disease (definite or possible) was present in 15% of men, there being myocardial infarction in 4.2% and myocardial ischaemia in 10.3%. Electrocardiographic evidence of myocardial infarction increased fourfold over the age range studied. There was considerable overlap of questionnaire and electrocardiographic evidence of ischaemic heart disease. Nevertheless, more than half of those with possible myocardial infarction combined with angina had no resting electrocardiographic evidence of ischaemic heart disease, and half of those with definite myocardial infarction on electrocardiogram had no history of chest pain at any time. This national population based study strongly suggests that the prevalence of ischaemic heart disease in middle aged British men is greater than has been indicated by previous studies based on occupational groups.
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