The aim of this study was to describe and interpret differences in major cardiovascular disease (CVD) mortality during 60 years between Northern European and Southern European cohorts of the Seven Countries Study of Cardiovascular Diseases.
Material and methods
Northern Europe included two cohorts from Finland and one from the Netherlands, and Southern Europe included two cohorts from Italy and two from Greece, for a total of 2360 and 2792 CVD-free men, respectively, at entry examination. Coronary heart disease (CHD), STROKE and other Heart Diseases of Uncertain Etiology (HDUE) deaths were the outcomes and Cox models were solved separately based on 12 risk factors.
In 60 years, overall death rates were 99.8% in both Northern and Southern Europe and the pooled CVD rates were 46.9% (significantly higher) and 42.2%, respectively: CHD mortality was higher in Northern Europe, whereas STROKE and HDUE mortality were higher in Southern Europe. Significant Cox coefficients for both areas (but not significantly different between areas) were age, smoking habits, SBP and serum cholesterol for CHD, and only age and SBP did so for STROKE and HDUE. Age at death was lower for CHD, intermediate for STROKE and higher for HDUE in both areas.
The advantage for Southern Europe was small in terms of overall CVD death rates, but definitely larger in terms of expectancy of life due to the differences in age at death in the three types of CVD mortality. Mean entry levels of serum cholesterol, 50 mg/dl higher in Northern Europe than in Southern Europe are a major culprit of these outcomes.