The 21-year follow-up of the Cardiovascular Risk in Young Finns Study: risk factor levels, secular trends and east–west difference


Olli T. Raitakari PhD MD, Turku PET Centre, PO Box 52, FIN-20500 Turku, Finland (fax: +358 2 231 8191; e-mail:


Objectives.  The Cardiovascular Risk in Young Finns Study is an on-going multicentre study of atherosclerosis precursors in Finnish children and young adults. We have collected risk factor data in the 21-year follow-up performed in 2001. The aims of this analysis were to examine the levels, secular trends and east–west difference in risk factors amongst young adults.

Design.  Population based follow-up study.

Subjects.  A total of 2283 participants aged 24–39 years in 2001 (63.5% of the original cohort).

Main outcome measures.  Levels of serum lipids, apolipoproteins, blood pressure and smoking.

Results.  The mean serum total cholesterol, low density lipoprotein cholesterol, high density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol and triglyceride concentrations in 24–39-year-old adults were 5.16, 3.27, 1.29 and 1.34 mmol L−1, respectively. Total cholesterol (5.21 vs. 5.12 mmol L−1, P = 0.046), HDL cholesterol (1.31 vs. 1.28 mmol L−1, P = 0.027), systolic blood pressure (118 vs. 115 mmHg, P < 0.0001) and diastolic blood pressure (72 vs. 70 mmHg, P < 0.0001) were higher in subjects originating from eastern Finland compared with those from western Finland. Significant secular trends between 1986 and 2001 in 24-year-old subjects (n = 783) included an increase in serum triglycerides and body mass index (BMI), a decrease in blood pressure and HDL cholesterol and a modest 5% decrease in total cholesterol levels.

Conclusions.  During the past 15 years, BMI and triglyceride levels have increased in young adults in Finland. At the same time, the reduction in cholesterol concentration has been slow. Consistent with persistent regional differences in cardiovascular morbidity within Finland, our data demonstrate significant differences in the levels of cardiovascular risk factors between subjects originating from eastern and western Finland.