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the study was set up to explore regional disparities in France in the annual prevalence of cardiovascular risk factors (hypertension, high lipids, obesity, diabetes and tobacco consumption) and protective factors (alcohol intake) in members of the GAZEL Cohort and to determine which, if any, risk factors followed the same north-south gradient as the one known for cardiovascular mortality.the population studied comprised 18,070 subjects aged from 35 to 50 years, employed by the French national gas and electricity company. Every year from 1989 to 1993 they received a self-administered questionnaire by mail. From the replies, differences in risk factor prevalence were evaluated by an odds ratio adjusted for sex and age, using a marginal model.a regional effect was found (p < 0.001) for arterial hypertension, with high odds ratios in northern France and low ratios in the south east, for high lipids, with high odds ratios in Champagne, the Loire region and Upper Normandy and low ratios in the south east and the Paris area, and for obesity, with high odds ratios in the north and north east and low ratios in the south, south east and west.these results show a gradient between the north and south east for hypertension, obesity, and to a lesser degree high lipids. This gradient corresponds to the known regional disparities for cardiovascular mortality.