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Comparison of cardiovascular risk factors and outcomes among practicing physicians vs the general population in Ontario, Canada

Ko DT, Chu A, Austin PC, Johnston S, Nallamothu BK, Roifman I, Tusevljak N, Udell JA, Frank E. JAMA Netw Open. 2019; 2(11):e1915983. Epub 2019 Nov 22. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2019.15983


Importance — Although cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in most developed countries, little is known about current physicians’ cardiovascular health and outcomes.

Objective — To compare cardiac risk-factor burden, health services use, and major cardiovascular event incidence between physicians and the general population.

Design, Setting, and Participants — This cohort study used data from practicing physicians and nonphysicians without cardiovascular disease aged 40 to 75 years in Ontario, Canada. Cohorts were assembled beginning January 1, 2008, and were followed up to December 31, 2015. Data analysis was performed between November 2017 and September 2019.

Exposures — Being a practicing physician.

Main Outcomes and Measures — The primary outcome was 8-year major cardiovascular event incidence (cardiovascular death or hospitalization for myocardial infarction, stroke, heart failure or coronary revascularization). Secondary outcomes included health services use such as physician assessments and guideline-recommended tests.

Results — The cohort comprised 17 071 physicians (mean [SD] age, 53.3 [8.8] years; 11 963 [70.1%] men) and 5 306 038 nonphysicians (mean [SD] age, 53.7 [9.5] years; 2 556 044 [48.2%] men). Physicians had significantly lower baseline rates of hypertension (16.9% vs 29.6%), diabetes (5.0% vs 11.3%), and smoking (13.1% vs 21.6%), while having better cholesterol profiles (total cholesterol levels >240 mg/dL, 13.3% vs 16.5%; low-density lipoprotein cholesterol >130 mg/dL, 33.2% vs 36.8%); age- and sex-adjusted differences were even larger. Physicians also had lower rates of periodic health examinations (58.9% [95% CI, 57.5%-60.4%] vs 67.9% [95% CI, 67.8%-67.9%]), hyperlipidemia screening (76.3% [95% CI, 74.7%-78.0%] vs 83.8% [95% CI, 83.7%-83.9%]), and diabetes screening (79.0% [95% CI, 77.3%-80.8%] vs 85.3% [95% CI, 85.2%-85.4%]), but higher rates of cardiologist consultations (25.2% [95% CI, 24.2%-26.3%] vs 19.5% [95% CI, 19.4%-19.5%]). The 8-year age- and sex-standardized primary outcome incidence was 4.4 major cardiovascular events per 1000 person-years for physicians and 7.1 major cardiovascular events per 1000 person-years for the general population. After adjusting for age, sex, socioeconomic status, and cardiac risks and comorbidities, physicians had a 22% lower hazard (hazard ratio, 0.78; 95% CI, 0.72-0.85) of experiencing the primary outcome compared with the general population.

Conclusions and Relevance — Practicing physicians in Ontario had fewer cardiovascular risk factors, underwent less preventive testing, and were less likely to develop major adverse cardiovascular outcomes than the general population.

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