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Open Access Research article

Urbanization, ethnicity and cardiovascular risk in a population in transition in Nakuru, Kenya: a population-based survey

Wanjiku Mathenge, Allen Foster and Hannah Kuper*

Author Affiliations

London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, Keppel Street, London WC1E 7HT, UK

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BMC Public Health 2010, 10:569  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-10-569

Published: 22 September 2010

Abstract

Background

Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is the leading cause of death among older people in Africa. This study aimed to investigate the relationship of urbanization and ethnicity with CVD risk markers in Kenya.

Methods

A cross-sectional population-based survey was carried out in Nakuru Kenya in 2007-2008. 100 clusters of 50 people aged ≥50 years were selected by probability proportionate to size sampling. Households within clusters were selected through compact segment sampling. Participants were interviewed by nurses to collect socio-demographic and lifestyle information. Nurses measured blood pressure, height, weight and waist and hip circumference. A random finger-prick blood sample was taken to measure glucose and cholesterol levels.

Hypertension was defined as systolic blood pressure (SBP) ≥140 mm Hg, or diastolic blood pressure (DBP) ≥90 mm Hg or current use of antihypertensive medication; Diabetes as reported current medication or diet control for diabetes or random blood glucose level ≥11.1 mmol/L; High cholesterol as random blood cholesterol level ≥5.2 mmol/L; and Obesity as Body Mass Index (BMI)≥30 kg/m2.

Results

5010 eligible subjects were selected, of whom 4396 (88%) were examined. There was a high prevalence of hypertension (50.1%, 47.5-52.6%), obesity (13.0%, 11.7-14.5%), diabetes (6.6%, 5.6-7.7%) and high cholesterol (21.1%, 18.6-23.9). Hypertension, diabetes and obesity were more common in urban compared to rural groups and the elevated prevalence generally persisted after adjustment for socio-demographic, lifestyle, obesity and cardiovascular risk markers. There was also a higher prevalence of hypertension, obesity, diabetes and high cholesterol among Kikuyus compared to Kalenjins, even after multivariate adjustment. CVD risk markers were clustered both across the district and within individuals. Few people received treatment for hypertension (15%), while the majority of cases with diabetes received treatment (68%).

Conclusions

CVD risk markers are common in Kenya, particularly in urban areas. Exploring differences in CVD risk markers between ethnic groups may help to elucidate the epidemiology of these conditions.