The aim was to give on overview of the profile of cardiovascular disease, vascular pathology and the relationships between lifestyle and cardiovascular disease in Japanese. Compared with the United States and Europe, the higher mortality from stroke and lower mortality from coronary heart disease constitute a unique cardiovascular profile for Japan.
A selective review of population-based pathology, trend and prospective cohort studies was performed to clarify the characteristics of cardiovascular disease and vascular pathology, trends in the incidence and mortality of cardiovascular disease, and the relationships between lifestyle and cardiovascular disease among Japanese adults. Since the 1970s, mortality from coronary heart disease as well as stroke has declined substantially in Japan, probably due to a major decline in blood pressure levels and for men a more recent decline in smoking, in spite of an increase in body mass index and total cholesterol levels. However, the decline in mortality was smaller and plateaued in middle-aged men aged 30-49 in the metropolitan cities of Tokyo and Osaka. The incidence of coronary heart disease has increased among middle-aged men residing in the suburbs of Osaka. As for the associations between lifestyle and cardiovascular disease, higher sodium, lower calcium and lower animal protein content in the diet and for men higher alcohol consumption may account for the higher prevalence of hypertension and higher risk of stroke for Japanese than for western populations. On the other hand, lower saturated fat (meat) and higher n3 polyunsaturated fat (fish) in the Japanese diet may contribute to the lower prevalence of hypercholesterolemia and lower risk of coronary heart disease among Japanese.
Japan is unique among developed countries in that coronary heart disease mortality has been low and has continued to decline, while stroke mortality has declined substantially. However, a recent trend for coronary heart disease incidence to increase among urban men is a cause for concern as a potential source of future problems for public health and clinical practice in Japan.