Open Access Research article

Cardiovascular risk estimated after 13 years of follow-up in a low-incidence Mediterranean region with high-prevalence of cardiovascular risk factors

José M Huerta12, María-José Tormo123*, Diana Gavrila12 and Carmen Navarro123

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Epidemiology, Murcia Regional Health Authority, Ronda de Levante 11, 30008 Murcia, Spain

2 CIBER Epidemiología y Salud Pública (CIBERESP), Spain

3 Department of Sociosanitary Sciences, University of Murcia School of Medicine, Spain

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BMC Public Health 2010, 10:640  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-10-640

Published: 25 October 2010



Murcia (south-east Spain) shows increased cardiovascular (CV) morbimortality as compared to other Spanish regions. Our objective was to assess the CV risk associated with major risk factors (RF) among adult population of Murcia.


A cohort of 2314 subjects (18-70 years) with full biochemical and questionnaire data was followed-up for 13 years. Incident cases of ischemic heart disease and stroke were identified by record linkage, individual questionnaires and revision of medical records. Relative risks were obtained by multivariate Cox regression stratified by age and sex, and ischemic risk attributable to CVRF was calculated.


After more than 26276 person-years of follow-up, 57 incident ischemic events (77% men) and 37 stroke cases (62% men) were identified. Independent risk factors of ischemic heart disease (IHD) and all CV events combined, with RR ranging from 1.6 to 2.6, were total serum cholesterol ≥ 240 mg/dl (HR = 2.6, 95%CI:1.3-5.1), blood pressure levels ≥ 140/90 mmHg (HR = 2.6, 95%CI:1.4-4.8), ever tobacco smoking (HR = 2.2; 95%CI:1.1-4.5), and diabetes (HR = 2.0; 95%CI: 1.0-3.8). No increased CV risk was detected for known participants under treatment who showed cholesterol and blood pressure values below the clinical risk threshold. Smoking was significantly associated with stroke. For all events combined, the major risk factors were hypercholesterolemia, hypertension and ever use of tobacco. Despite its high prevalence, obesity was not associated to CV risk. Most of the IHD cases were attributable to smoking (44%), hypertension (38%) and hypercholesterolemia (26%).


In the Region of Murcia, smoking accounted for the largest proportion of cardiovascular risk, whereas hypertension displaced hypercholesterolemia as the second leading cause of CV disease. Our study deepens in our understanding of the cardiovascular epidemiology in Spanish areas of Mediterranean Europe with relatively high cardiovascular morbimortality, that are poorly represented by the available risk equations.