Monday, June 20, 2011

We've got some explaining to do: patient knowledge of cardiovascular risk factors

Results from a survey of 2,200 patients in Western Massachusetts were published in the American Journal of Cardiology in May. Sartak et al found that of these patients, just over one third could correctly identify the seven factors which the American Heart Association promotes as ways to reduce your risk of heart attack:
  1. Do not smoke (ever)
  2. Exercise regularly (30 minutes a day)
  3. Eat a healthy diet (plant based)
  4. Maintain low BMI (under 25)
  5. Treat high cholesterol
  6. Treat high blood pressure
  7. Treat high blood sugar
Now, it might be a stretch to say that you need to know all seven to be healthy. For example, as long as you are seeing a doctor who is helping you to manage you blood pressure, sugar, and cholesterol, perhaps that is enough. In my experience though, patients who are aware of the goals they need to meet are much more likely to meet them. Furthermore, this was a survey of people already in a clinic, seeing a doctor. Evidence shows that for the general population, not only is knowledge worse, but adherence is abysmal. For example, this study from 2005 which showed only that only 7% of Americans with heart disease successfully 1) do not smoke, 2) eat fruits and vegetables, and 3) exercise regularly.

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