Background: The epidemiological transition has seen a trend from communicable to non-communicable diseases in developing countries. At the pinnacle of these chronic diseases is hypertension, pre-hypertension, diabetes and obesity. This leads to increased cardiovascular morbidity and mortality worldwide. In addition, environmental and behavioural changes such as lifestyle habits represent modifiable risk factors for the development of cardiovascular diseases. The Caribbean is not immune to this trend.
Methods: This was a cross-sectional survey conducted between June and September 2009 and involved individuals 15–74 years of age. Age-gender was weighted to get as close a representative sample of the general population living in the British Virgin Islands (BVI) for more than two years to a total of 301 (n = 301, M: 144, F: 157; CI 95% ± error 5%). The study was carried out using a handout questionnaire that included variables on age, gender, socio-economic status (SES), income level, cigarette smoking, physical activity, weight, height, body mass index (BMI), blood pressure, fasting blood glucose and cholesterol.
Results: This study shows a prevalence of hypertension of 16.6%, pre-hypertension – 29.9%, diabetes mellitus – 10.0% [M: 5.6%, F: 14%, p < 0.01], impaired fasting glucose (IFG) – 16.9% [M: 13.9%, F: 19.7%, p < 0.01], overweight – 25.6% (M: 19.4%, F: 31.2%, p < 0.001), obesity (body mass index > 30) – 23.6% (M: 17.4%, F: 29.3%, p < 0.001) [all significantly higher in women], smoking habits – 16.6% and alcohol – 51.2% [significantly higher in men: 22.5% and 56.7%, respectively]. Of the respondents, 43.2% had a low/inactive physical activity level. Clustering of greater than one risk factor was more pronounced for women than for men 29.6% (M: 27.1%, F: 31.8%, p < 0.05). Sedentary lifestyle (low/inactive physical activity) and obesity were the only risk factors that had a positive correlation with all four chronic diseases (p < 0.05).
Conclusion: The above results indicate that a national strategy needs to be implemented to control cardiovascular diseases, educate the population and promote healthy lifestyle habits with particular attention to low physical inactivity and obesity.