There’s plenty of room for improvement when it comes to raising awareness for cardiovascular risk, based on a recent study that found one in five adults at risk for heart disease don’t recognize a need to improve their health.
Published in the Journal of the American Heart Association, this study analyzed data from a 2011–2012 health survey conducted in six Canadian provinces, including Alberta, Manitoba, Quebec, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, and Newfoundland and Labrador. The study included 45,443 Canadian adults who, according to authors, represent 97% of the adult population in these areas.
Through the survey, participants reported whether or not they had key cardiovascular risk factors such as smoking, high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity, stress, excess alcohol consumption, low fruit and vegetable consumption and a lack of physical activity. Together, these risk factors account for the majority of heart attacks worldwide and when addressed, can help significantly reduce risk for heart disease.
Participants also reported their perceived need to improve their health. For example, they answered the question: “Do you think there is anything you should do to improve your physical health?”. If they answered yes, they were then asked if anything is stopping them from making this improvement and if so, what it is.
On average, participants had 2.5 cardiovascular risk factors and three-quarters recognized the need to improve their own health.
After analysis, researchers found that the more risk factors participants had, the more likely they were to recognize their need to change. However, one in five individuals with the highest risk (those that had five or more cardiovascular risk factors) did not feel a need to improve their health.
Authors also noted that adults who were obese, smoked, and didn’t get enough physical activity were most likely to report a need to improve their health, while those with high blood pressure and diabetes were least likely to recognize a need to change.
Based on findings, authors highlight the need to raise awareness for cardiovascular risk factors and the importance of heart disease prevention. If many adults are unaware of their cardiovascular risk factors, then it’s unlikely that they will take steps to address them. Experts hope that with improved education, patients will gain a better understanding of their risk and take steps to improve their heart health.