The health situation in Central America is evolving from one in which the epidemiologic profile is dominated by infectious diseases and nutritional deficiencies to an elevation of the importance ofchronic non communicable diseases (NCD) as principal causes of morbidity. For example, data fromaround the year 2002 demonstrated that among women in Central America of 20-59 years the firstcause of death is cancer of the uterus, with diabetes, stroke, and ischemic heart disease being thethird, four and fifth causes respectively.
During the same period, among those of age 60 years and older in both genders, ischemic heart disease and stroke were the first and second causes ofdeath, respectively, while congestive heart disease and diabetes were among the five main causes ofdeaths .
Furthermore, the ratio of mortality due to non communicable and communicable causesin Central America rose from 1.0 to 3.1 between the periods of 1980-1985 and 1990-1995, respectively.Despite the importance of NCD in the health profile of Central America, information on the prevalence of major chronic diseases such as diabetes and hypertension and their risk factors are not available.
Obesity, physical inactivity and diet are considered major factors in the etiology of diabetes mellitusand hypertension. Obesity can contribute significantly to heart disease and resulting disabilities. For this reason, the present study examined the effects of epidemiologic transition on the health profile of various populations of Belize, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala and Nicaragua.