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To determine whether or not the lower rate of coronary disease in France, in comparison with Sweden, might be explained by different cardiovascular risk profiles, a cross-sectional analysis (first step of a longitudinal study) of comparable samples of automotive workers was carried out in corporate occupational health clinics of Renault and Volvo. Traditional cardiovascular risk factors were evaluated and the Framingham coronary risk was estimated for 1000 randomly selected 45–50 years old Caucasian males from each company. Compared with the Frenchmen, the Swedish men consisted of more white collar workers and were slightly older. After adjustment for age and blue/white collar status, the Swedish men showed lower body mass indexes, waist to hip rations and heart rates, lower frequency of treatment of hypercholesterolemia and diabetes than the Frenchmen. The Swedish males also exhibited higher averages of blood cholesterol, low density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol and glucose, but lower frequencies of hypercholestrolemia and diabetes, and a higher frequency of family histories of cardiovascular disease. Blood pressure, hypertension prevalence, triglycerides level, and high density lipoprotein (HDL) did not differ between the groups. The average number of traditional risk factors was 1.1/person for the Frenchmen and 0.8/person for the Swedes. However, the coronary risk as estimated using the Framingham index was not different between the groups. This, together with the more frequent family history of cardiovascular disease in Swedish men, suggests a lower susceptibility to risk factors as a possible explanation for the lower cardiovascular disease prevalence reported in France, and/or the possibility that factors not measured were involved.