Open Access Research article

The prevalence of chronic diseases and major disease risk factors at different ages among 150 000 men and women living in Mexico City: cross-sectional analyses of a prospective study

Pablo Kuri-Morales1, Jonathan Emberson2*, Jesús Alegre-Díaz3, Roberto Tapia-Conyer1, Rory Collins2, Richard Peto2 and Gary Whitlock2

Author Affiliations

1 Facultad de Medicina, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, Mexico City, Mexico

2 Clinical Trial Service Unit and Epidemiological Studies Unit (CTSU), University of Oxford, Oxford, UK

3 Secretaria de Salud, Direccion General de Epidemiologia, Mexico City, Mexico

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BMC Public Health 2009, 9:9  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-9-9

Published: 9 January 2009



While most of the global burden from chronic diseases, and especially vascular diseases, is now borne by low and middle-income countries, few large-scale epidemiological studies of chronic diseases in such countries have been performed.


From 1998–2004, 52 584 men and 106 962 women aged ≥35 years were visited in their homes in Mexico City. Self reported diagnoses of chronic diseases and major disease risk factors were ascertained and physical measurements taken. Age- and sex-specific prevalences and means were analysed.


After about age 50 years, diabetes was extremely common – for example, 23.8% of men and 26.9% of women aged 65–74 reported a diagnosis. By comparison, ischaemic heart disease was reported by 4.8% of men and 3.0% of women aged 65–74, a history of stroke by 2.8% and 2.3%, respectively, and a history of cancer by 1.3% and 2.1%. Cancer history was generally more common among women than men – the excess being largest in middle-age, due to breast and cervical cancer. At older ages, the gap narrowed because of an increasing prevalence of prostate cancer. 51% of men and 25% of women aged 35–54 smoked cigarettes, while 29% of men and 41% of women aged 35–54 were obese (i.e. BMI ≥30 kg/m2). The prevalence of treated hypertension or measured blood pressure ≥140/90 mmHg increased about 50% more steeply with age among women than men, to 66% of women and 58% of men aged 65–74. Physical inactivity was highly prevalent but daily alcohol drinking was relatively uncommon.


Diabetes, obesity and tobacco smoking are highly prevalent among adults living in Mexico City. Long-term follow-up of this and other cohorts will establish the relevance of such factors to the major causes of death and disability in Mexico.