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Coronary heart disease incidence in northern and southern European populations: a reanalysis of the seven countries study for a European coronary risk chart


OBJECTIVE A systematic reanalysis of 10 year coronary heart disease incidence data from the northern and the southern European cohorts of the seven countries study, to contribute indirectly to the production of a European coronary risk chart.

DESIGN AND SETTING Men aged 40–59 years at entry were studied in three northern European cohorts based in Finland and Netherlands (n = 2213); and in 10 southern European cohorts based in Italy, former Yugoslavia, and Greece (n = 5897). Multiple logistic models for the prediction of coronary deaths, coronary incidence (hard criteria), and coronary incidence (any criterion) were solved for the two geographical groups and their pool. Risk factors fed into the models were age, systolic blood pressure, serum total cholesterol, and cigarette smoking.

RESULTS 10 year coronary heart disease mortality and incidence were higher in northern than in southern Europe, with ratios around 2.65. Ratios among the three coronary heart disease manifestations were identical in the two cultural groupings. Coefficients of the multiple logistic models were similar and not significantly different between the two groupings. When applying the coefficients back to the same or the opposite population, the relative risk was large and similar in the different cultures. Relative risk was larger for more severe coronary heart disease manifestations. The absolute risk was overestimated when applying the northern European model to southern European populations and vice versa, with ratios of about 1.5 and 0.5, respectively. Coronary risk charts created to reproduce the shape of those incorporated in recent European guidelines confirmed the excess of absolute risk in the northern compared with the southern European cohorts, all else being equal.

CONCLUSIONS In theory, a more appropriate European coronary risk chart could be produced by adopting coefficients to correct for different background incidence rates in different cultures. Other coefficients could appropriately be used to transform mortality risk into incidence risk.

  • coronary heart disease
  • risk factors
  • risk estimate

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