Prevalence of cardiovascular risk factors in adults with congenital heart disease

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Empirical evidence indicates that patients with congenital cardiac anomalies may be prone to developing coronary heart disease. Although primary prevention of ischaemic heart disease in patients with congenital heart defects is important, data on the prevalence of cardiovascular risk factors in these patients are not available. The aims of this study are therefore to describe the prevalence of risk factors for coronary heart disease in a large sample of adults with congenital cardiac anomalies, and compare this with the prevalence in the general population.


A retrospective analysis of computerized patient records.


At our outpatient clinic, all patients are examined by an advanced practice nurse and a congenital heart disease cardiologist. Data on smoking behaviour, sports participation, blood pressure, body mass index, and the diagnosis of diabetes are recorded systematically. Data on the general population were derived from national health surveys.


In a 4-year period, we collected data on 1976 individual patients. Male patients had a significantly higher prevalence of smoking and elevated blood pressure, whereas women were less engaged in sports activities and were more often obese. In comparison with the general population, our patients reported less smoking and more participation in sports, but presented more often with hypertension or diabetes. Only 20.4% of men and 21.0% of women have a fully heart-healthy lifestyle, as they presented without any risk factor.


A substantial number of patients had one or more cardiovascular risk factors. Therefore, primary prevention by strengthening educational efforts becomes critically relevant in patients with congenital heart disease, to avoid the additional burden of coronary events in this growing population of patients.

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