Effect of patients' awareness of CVD risk factors on health-related behaviors

South Med J. 2013 Nov;106(11):606-9. doi: 10.1097/SMJ.0000000000000013.


Objectives: In 2010, the American Heart Association unveiled a strategic plan to reduce cardiovascular deaths by targeting seven components of ideal cardiovascular health. Although education is a sensible first step, it is not known whether awareness correlates with healthy behavior. The objective of the study was to examine the association between awareness of risk factors and ideal cardiovascular health behavior.

Methods: We surveyed patients 40 years and older at five ambulatory clinics. The survey measured demographics, health management behaviors, comorbidities, and awareness of five modifiable cardiac risk factors (smoking, obesity, high cholesterol, hypertension and diabetes mellitus) and one protective factor (exercise). Healthy behavior was defined as follows: diabetes, hemoglobin A1c <8.0%; hypertension, systolic blood pressure <140 mm Hg), high cholesterol, medication adherence; obesity, attempting to lose weight; smoking, abstinence; and exercise, ≥ 30 minutes/day, ≥ 3 times per week.

Results: For five modifiable risk factors, awareness was positively associated with healthy behavior in multivariable models: obesity, hypertension, exercise, cholesterol, and diabetes. Awareness was inversely associated with smoking abstention.

Conclusions: Awareness that a specific factor increases the risk for cardiovascular disease was positively associated with healthy behavior regarding most risk factors; however, the association was modest, suggesting that awareness alone does not motivate behavior.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / etiology*
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / prevention & control
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / psychology
  • Data Collection
  • Female
  • Health Behavior*
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Risk Factors
  • Risk Reduction Behavior