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Open Access Research article

Prevalence of cardiovascular risk factors and the metabolic syndrome in middle-aged men and women in Gothenburg, Sweden

Lennart Welin12*, Annika Adlerberth2, Kenneth Caidahl24, Henry Eriksson2, Per-Olof Hansson2, Saga Johansson3, Annika Rosengren2, Kurt Svärdsudd5, Catharina Welin26 and Lars Wilhelmsen2

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Medicine, Lidköping Hospital, Lidköping, Sweden

2 Cardiovascular Institute, Sahlgrenska Academy, University of Gothenburg, Sweden

3 AstraZeneca, Mölndal, Sweden

4 Karolinska Institute, Stockholm, Sweden

5 Department of Public Health and Caring Sciences, Uppsala University, Sweden

6 Institute of Health and Care Sciences, Sahlgrenska Academy, University of Gothenburg, Gothenburg, Sweden

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BMC Public Health 2008, 8:403  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-8-403

Published: 8 December 2008



Random samples of 50-year-old men living in Gothenburg have been examined every 10th year since 1963 with a focus on cardiovascular risk factors. The aims of the study were to acquire up-to-date information about risk factors in the fifth cohort of 50-year-old men and women, to re-examine those who were 50 years of age in 1993, and to analyse the prevalence of the metabolic syndrome (MetSyn) using different definitions.


A random sample of men and women born in 1953 were examined in 2003–2004 for cardiovascular risk factors. Men born in 1943 and that participated in the examination in 1993 were also invited. Descriptive statistics were calculated.


The participation rate among men and women born in 1953 was 60 and 67% respectively. Among men born in 1943, the participation rate was 87%. The prevalence of obesity was from 15 to 17% (body mass index, BMI ≥ 30) in the three samples. The prevalence of known diabetes was 4% among the 50-year-old men and 6% among the 60-year-old men, and 2% among the women. Increased fasting plasma glucose varied substantially from 4 to 33% depending on cut-off level and gender. Mean cholesterol was 5.4 to 5.5 mmol/l. Smoking was more common among women aged 50 (26%) than among men aged 50 (22%) and 60 years (15%). The prevalence of the MetSyn varied with the definition used: from 10 to 15.8% among the women, from 16.1 to 26% among 50-year-old men, and from 19.9 to 35% among the 60-year-old men. Only 5% of the men and women had no risk factors.


This study provides up-to-date information about the prevalence of cardiovascular risk factors and the MetSyn in middle-aged Swedish men and women. Different definitions of the MetSyn create confusion regarding which definition to use.