Few studies have assessed secular changes in the levels of cardiovascular risk factors (CV-RF) in populations of low or middle income countries. The systematic collection of a broad set of both traditional and metabolic CV-RF in 1989 and 2004 in the population of the Seychelles islands provides a unique opportunity to examine trends at a fairly early stage of the "diabesity" era in a country in the African region.
Two examination surveys were conducted in independent random samples of the population aged 25–64 years in 1989 and 2004, attended by respectively 1081 and 1255 participants (participation rates >80%). All results are age-standardized to the WHO standard population.
In 2004 vs. 1989, the levels of the main traditional CV-RF have either decreased, e.g. smoking (17% vs. 30%, p < 0.001), mean blood pressure (127.8/84.8 vs. 130.0/83.4 mmHg, p < 0.05), or only moderately increased, e.g. median LDL-cholesterol (3.58 vs. 3.36 mmol/l, p < 0. 01). In contrast, marked detrimental trends were found for obesity (37% vs. 21%, p < 0.001) and several cardiometabolic CVD-RF, e.g. mean HDL-cholesterol (1.36 vs. 1.40 mmol/l, p < 0.05), median triglycerides (0.80 vs. 0.78 mmol/l, p < 0.01), mean blood glucose (5.89 vs. 5.22 mmol/l, p < 0.001), median insulin (11.6 vs. 8.3 μmol/l, p < 0.001), median HOMA-IR (2.9 vs. 1.8, p < 0.001) and diabetes (9.4% vs. 6.2%, p < 0.001). At age 40–64, the prevalence of elevated total cardiovascular risk tended to decrease (e.g. WHO-ISH risk score ≥10; 11% vs. 13%, ns), whereas the prevalence of the metabolic syndrome (which integrates several cardiometabolic CVD-RF) nearly doubled (36% vs. 20%, p < 0.001). Data on physical activity and on intake of alcohol, fruit and vegetables are also provided. Awareness and treatment rates improved substantially for hypertension and diabetes, but control rates improved for the former only. Median levels of the cardiometabolic CVD-RF increased between 1989 and 2004 within all BMI strata, suggesting that the worsening levels of cardiometabolic CVD-RF in the population were not only related to increasing BMI levels in the interval.
The levels of several traditional CVD-RF improved over time, while marked detrimental trends were observed for obesity, diabetes and several cardiometabolic factors. Thus, in this population, the rapid health transition was characterized by substantial changes in the patterns of CVD-RF. More generally, this analysis suggests the importance of surveillance systems to identify risk factor trends and the need for preventive strategies to promote healthy lifestyles and nutrition.