Risk factors and health determinants in older Italians.
ABSTRACT According to a WHO estimate, 50% of the total burden of diseases in men and 25% in women for the EURO-A group (which includes the highly developed countries of the WHO European Region) are attributable to unhealthy life-styles. The aim of the present study was to analyze anthropometric, biochemical and behavioral risk factors using data from the Italian Longitudinal Study on Aging (ILSA), a population-based study of older Italians initiated in 1992 to study those chronic conditions and attendant risk factors that contribute most substantially to morbidity, disability and mortality.
In this descriptive study, we calculated the means and distribution of risk factors in a sample of 5632 Italian subjects aged 65-84 by gender, age class and geographic area, and identified the proportion of these subgroups at higher risk. Analyses include data from the first (1992-93) and second (1995-96) examinations of this cohort.
Over 64% of older Italian participants were overweight in 1992. More than 70% had blood pressure in the borderline or definitely hypertensive range, and almost one-third had hyperlipidemic serum cholesterol levels, including subjects receiving treatment for these conditions. Based on Body Mass Index, more women than men were obese (27 vs 15%) and more women than men were hyperlipidemic in all age classes (38 vs 23%). Approximately 13% of the sample had glucose levels exceeding the recommended 126 mg/dL. Men were found to consume on average about 41 grams of alcohol daily and women 17 g/d. Lastly, we found that approximately 20% of men and 8% of women were smokers in 1992 but that smoking tended to diminish with age.
As the Italian population rapidly ages, the burden of disease and disability is increasing, necessitating more focused, immediate and effective prevention programs. We have identified a number of critical concerns ripe for intervention. The results of this study can better focus such efforts and help guide long-term health planning and policy.