Coronary artery disease has been identified as a major national health problem and prior to 1994 was the leading cause of death of the white population of Durban, South Africa1. The major modifiable risk factors for coronary heart disease (CHD) are cigarette smoking, hyper-cholesterolaemia, physical inactivity, diabetes mellitus, hypertension, stress, and obesity2. In order to assist fitness clubs in addressing the problem the current study surveyed the incidence of modifiable risk factors among first time entrants to a local fitness club.


A total of 240 white females with average age of 32.7 ±11.0 years were assessed for CHD risk factors on joining the Empangeni Health and Fitness Centre. The researcher interviewed each subject individually and recorded information on exercise habits, smoking habits and health status. Fat percentage was calculated from skinfolds. Blood pressure was measured in the sitting position using the manual method. Random total blood-cholesterol was measured by means of the Boehringer Accutrend GCT apparatus. The following norms were used to determine the presence of risk factors: Cigarette smoking (>, Physical inactivity, Presence of hypo-kinetic conditions such as diabetes, Hypertension (140/90 mmHg), Obesity (Fat Mass >30% or BMI >27.3 kg.m2) and Hyper-cholesterolaemia (5.2 mmol.l-1).


The following distribution of risk factors was identified among the 240 subjects tested: Smoking 19.8%, Inactivity 49.4%, Hypertension 16.5%, elevated cholesterol 45.2% and obesity 28.0%. In the present study 24.3% of subjects presented with no risk factors, 33.7% with only one risk factor, 42.0% with two or more risk factors, 12.0% with three or more risk factors and 2.0% with four or more risk factors.


Although the CHD risk factor profile of the current subjects seems to be better than that of the Durban population3 it is still a matter of concern and warrants special attention from fitness providers. The presence of multiple risk factors in the same person is important as the interaction of multiple risk factors magnifies their individual effects.


[1]. Seedat Y.K. et al. (1994). SAMJ, 84, 257-262.
[2]. Robergs A. & Roberts S.O. (1997). Exercise Physiology. St Louis, Mosby.
[3]. Seedat Y.K. and Mayet F.G.H. (1996). J. Hum. Hypertension, 10, s93-s94.