Behavioral counseling to promote a healthy lifestyle in persons with cardiovascular risk factors: a systematic review for the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force

Ann Intern Med. 2014 Oct 21;161(8):568-78. doi: 10.7326/M14-0130.


Background: Most Americans do not meet diet and physical activity recommendations despite known health benefits.

Purpose: To systematically review the benefits and harms of lifestyle counseling interventions in persons with cardiovascular risk factors for the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force.

Data sources: MEDLINE, PsycINFO, the Database of Abstracts of Reviews of Effects, and the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials (January 2001 to October 2013); experts; and existing systematic reviews.

Study selection: Two investigators independently reviewed 7218 abstracts and 553 articles against a set of inclusion and quality criteria.

Data extraction: Data from 74 trials were abstracted by one reviewer and checked by a second.

Data synthesis: At 12 to 24 months, intensive lifestyle counseling in persons selected for risk factors reduced total cholesterol levels by an average of 0.12 mmol/L (95% CI, 0.16 to 0.07 mmol/L) (4.48 mg/dL [CI, 6.36 to 2.59 mg/dL]), low-density lipoprotein cholesterol levels by 0.09 mmol/L (CI, 0.14 to 0.04 mmol/L) (3.43 mg/dL [CI, 5.37 to 1.49 mg/dL]), systolic blood pressure by 2.03 mm Hg (CI, 2.91 to 1.15 mm Hg), diastolic blood pressure by 1.38 mm Hg (CI, 1.92 to 0.83 mm Hg), fasting glucose levels by 0.12 mmol/L (CI, 0.18 to 0.05 mmol/L) (2.08 mg/dL [CI, 3.29 to 0.88 mg/dL]), diabetes incidence by a relative risk of 0.58 (CI, 0.37 to 0.89), and weight outcomes by a standardized mean difference of 0.25 (CI, 0.35 to 0.16). Behavioral changes in dietary intake and physical activity were generally concordant with changes in physiologic outcomes.

Limitation: Sparse reporting of patient health outcomes, longer-term follow-up of outcomes, and harms.

Conclusion: Intensive diet and physical activity behavioral counseling in persons with risk factors for cardiovascular disease resulted in consistent improvements across various important intermediate health outcomes up to 2 years.

Primary funding source: Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / prevention & control*
  • Counseling*
  • Diet*
  • Exercise*
  • Female
  • Health Behavior*
  • Humans
  • Life Style
  • Male
  • Overweight
  • Practice Guidelines as Topic
  • Risk Factors
  • United States