The impact of health literacy on cardiovascular disease

Vasc Health Risk Manag. 2006;2(4):457-64. doi: 10.2147/vhrm.2006.2.4.457.


One's ability to read, listen, and comprehend health information is a vital element of maintaining and improving health. However, 90 million people in the United States exhibit less than adequate health literacy skills. Given that more than 70 million Americans suffer from cardiovascular diseases, it is certain that every physician's practice is affected by health literacy issues. Those with language and cultural issues tend to be the most affected. Yet numerous studies find physicians do a poor job of assessing their patients' health literacy skills. Patients are also unaware of the steps they should take, and how to take them, to improve their health and prevent complications. Numerous studies find, however, that outcomes can be improved with targeted patient education and improved physician communication skills that take into account patients' health literacy levels. Unfortunately, the health care system is only beginning to recognize this problem and take action to overcome its negative impact. By improving the communication process with patients, physicians may be able to improve cardiovascular outcomes.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Cardiovascular Diseases / ethnology
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / prevention & control*
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / therapy*
  • Communication Barriers
  • Comprehension
  • Educational Status
  • Health Education*
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice*
  • Humans
  • Language
  • Patient Acceptance of Health Care / ethnology
  • Patient Compliance
  • Patient Education as Topic
  • Physician's Role*
  • Physician-Patient Relations*
  • Self Care
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • United States