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Jun 05, 2014

Web-Based Program Helps Patients Improve Heart Health

Not only do Web-based programs help patients lower risk for heart disease, they’re more affordable than traditional counseling, according to study.

Web-based programs are more affordable than traditional counseling and help people improve their health, according to a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

This study was the first of its kind to directly compare cardiovascular risk reduction programs delivered by counselors vs. a Web-based program. Although counseling has been shown to help people improve their health, such programs require a substantial amount of time and money. Web-based programs, on the other hand, can be less expensive and allow patients flexibility in completing the course. But are Web-based programs as effective as one-on-one counseling when it comes to improving health?

To compare these strategies, researchers identified 385 patients at high risk for heart disease and randomly assigned them to one of two health interventions. Half of patients were assigned to a Web-based program, while the other half received in-person counseling. In both cases, participants received four intensive sessions and three maintenance sessions where they learned skills to reduce risk for heart disease through lifestyle changes and medication, when necessary.

After following participants for one year, researchers found that both interventions helped participants reduce their risk for heart disease. However, the web-based program cost significantly less than one-on-one counseling. Researchers calculated that the counselor-based program cost $207 per person, while the Web-based intervention cost just $110 per person.

Authors hope this study sparks future research on the topic, as Web-based programs are becoming increasingly popular in the medical field. Researchers also point out that most primary care doctors lack the skills and time to dedicate to one-on-one counseling. By offering Web-based programs that can be delivered on a larger scale, patients may have a better chance at improving their heart health and reducing risk for heart disease.

Questions for You to Consider

  • Am I at risk for heart disease?
  • To estimate a patient’s risk for heart disease, doctors take into account a number of factors such as age, gender, blood pressure, cholesterol, and family history. Using this information, doctors can estimate whether a patient is considered to be at low, medium or high risk for heart disease. Online tools are also available to help patients estimate their risk for heart disease.
  • How can I reduce my risk for heart disease?
  • Healthy lifestyle choices are key to reducing risk for heart disease. By eating a heart-healthy diet and staying physically active, you can help significantly reduce heart disease risk. Knowing your numbers—body mass index, blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood sugar—and family history is also important so that you can address any risk factors you may have for heart disease.

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