Objective To assess the prevalence, magnitude and factors associated with the number of major modifiable cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk factors.

Design Community-based cross-sectional study.

Setting General population in urban and rural Wolaita, southern Ethiopia.

Participants A total of 2483 adults aged 25–64 years were selected using the three-stage random sampling.

Outcome measures Prevalence of major modifiable CVD risk factors, co-occurrences and the number of modifiable CVD risk factors.

Results The major modifiable CVD risk factors documented in the Wolaita area were smoking with a weighted prevalence of 0.8%, hypercholesterolaemia 5.0%, hypertriglyceridaemia 15.5%, low high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL-C) 31.3%, high systolic blood pressure 22.2%, high diastolic blood pressure 22.4%, physical inactivity 44.1%, obesity 2.8% and hyperglycaemia 3.7%. The numbers of participants having ≥1, ≥2 and ≥3 major modifiable CVD risk factors in the study area were 2013, 1201 and 576 with a weighted prevalence of 75.8%, 42.3% and 19.4%, respectively. In general, there were 28 different combinations of major modifiable CVD risk factor co-occurrences. The combination of physical inactivity with low HDL-C was found in 19.7% of the study participants, followed by physical inactivity with hypertension of 17.8%. Urban residence, male gender, sugar-sweetened food consumption and older age had a positive association with the number of major modifiable CVD risk factors, while being a farmer had a negative association.

Conclusions The prevalence and magnitude of major modifiable CVD risk factors in the study area were high. The components of the most prevalent combinations of major modifiable CVD risk factors should be targeted. Therefore, public health measures against major modifiable CVD risk factors such as promotion of physical exercise and reduction of sugar-sweetened food consumption have to be taken, targeting the vulnerable groups such as urban residents and older age.

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