Understanding diabetes and heart disease in Africa

  • September 11, 2013
Understanding diabetes and heart disease in Africa

Observational studies are needed to understand the growing burden of cardiovascular disease and diabetes in sub-Saharan Africa, according to a study led by a Gates Cambridge Scholar.

Prospective observational studies are needed to understand the growing burden of cardiovascular disease and diabetes in sub-Saharan Africa, according to a study led by a Gates Cambridge Scholar.

The study, Cardiometabolic Risk in a Rural Ugandan Population, led by Georgina Murphy [2009], is published in the journal Diabetes Care.

It says that few studies of diabetes and cardiovascular disease have been carried out on African populations, leading to an incomplete understanding of their prevalence and distribution.

A better understanding, says the research, could lead to better preventive health policies.

The researchers involved over 8,000 participants living in rural areas of Uganda, all aged 13 and over. Fifty-five per cent were women. Participants were assessed for whether they were at risk of developing diabetes or cardiovascular disease using the Framingham Risk Score (FRS), a gender-specific algorithm used to estimate the 10-year cardiovascular risk of an individual, and metabolic syndrome, for which their are many definitions including the World Health Organization, the International Diabetes Federation, and the newly proposed harmonised definition.

The harmonised definition of metabolic syndrome appeared to be the most sensitive and showed a prevalence of 13.7%. The prevalence of metabolic syndrome increased with age and women had a higher prevalence, possibly linked to higher obesity in women.

However, according to the FRS, men had a higher risk of cardiovascular disease compared to women. The researchers say there were inconsistencies in results using the different measurements of risk and add that this shows the need for prospective observational studies (studies which follow people over time) in sub-Saharan Africa in order to better understand the relationship between such risk measurements and actual disease outcome.

Georgina, who is doing a PhD in Public Health and Primary Care, says: “Cardiometabolic diseases, such as heart disease and diabetes, are rapidly becoming leading causes of illness and death in sub-Saharan Africa. Current methods for identifying individuals who might be at increased risk of cardiometabolic diseases include diagnosing metabolic syndrome, for which there are many definitions, and calculating the Framingham risk score.However, the impact and relevance of such approaches to identify high risk population groups in sub-Saharan African populations is unclear. This study highlight the need for prospective observational studies in sub-Saharan African populations to evaluate and assess the distribution and determinants of cardiometabolic disease risk and to help to inform policy and healthcare programmes in sub-Saharan Africa.”

Picture credit: www.freedigitalphotos.net and jscreationzs

Latest News

Affecting change for the Māori community

Self-determination lies at the centre of Māori culture. “It’s a way of life,” says Chris Tooley. That idea is also at the heart of his PhD studies at Cambridge and his subsequent work in Parliament and in the community. Chris grew up with a strong sense of being part of the Māori community. He has ancestral […]

On the COVID frontline

Three Gates Cambridge scholars who have been on the medical frontline during the COVID-19 pandemic will be speaking about their experiences at a virtual event next weekend. The event, organised by the Gates Cambridge Alumni Association, will be moderated by Elizabeth Dzeng, Assistant Professor of Medicine at the University of California, San Francisco in the […]

New game tackles Covid conspiracies

A new online game that puts players in the shoes of a purveyor of fake pandemic news is the latest tactic in the UK Government’s efforts to tackle the deluge of coronavirus misinformation that is misleading many and costing lives across the world. Launched to the public today, the Go Viral! game has been developed by the […]

“Democracy does not work on a ‘trust me’ basis”

When Jennifer Gibson started her MPhil at Cambridge in 2001 as part of the inaugural class of Gates Scholars, no-one knew what it meant to be a Gates Cambridge Scholar. Twenty years later, Jennifer is now a human rights lawyer focused on national security issues, something she never could have anticipated, but which she credits in no small part […]