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Cardiovascular risk profiles in German Air Force pilots


Introduction Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is the leading cause of death in western industrial countries and one of the most frequent causes of sudden incapacitation in flight for pilots. There are limited data available on cardiovascular risk profiles of pilots, and especially military pilots. The aim of this study was to assess the prevalence of cardiovascular risk factors (CVRF) in German military pilots.

Methods The changing prevalence of CVRF in active military pilots was studied using a cross-sectional survey during two distinct periods, 2007–2009 and 2016–2018. Data collected included sex, body mass index (BMI), smoking status, resting blood pressure, total cholesterol, high density lipoprotein (HDL), low density lipoprotein (LDL), triglycerides and glucose. The use of antihypertensive drugs, diagnosis of diabetes mellitus and positive family history of myocardial infarction were also captured. Based on these data, the PROCAM (Prospective Cardiovascular Münster) score was calculated.

Results Data from 5353 flight medical examinations were analysed, 3397 from 2007 to 2009, and 1959 from 2016 to 2018. Between the cohorts, age, BMI, total cholesterol, HDL, LDL, glucose and triglycerides increased significantly. The number of pilots on antihypertensive medication decreased significantly. The PROCAM score increased between cohorts from 18 to 23 points predicting a 10-year risk of an acute coronary event of <1% and 1.3%, respectively.

Conclusion The German military pilot population has become older with increased CVRF. CVD will be a future challenge for the German Armed Forces and probably other military forces. However, there was only a mild increase of the PROCAM score over time.

  • ischaemic heart disease
  • preventive medicine
  • aviation medicine
  • coronary heart disease

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