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Perceived Versus Actual Risk of Coronary Heart Disease in Women


Coronary Heart disease (CHD) is the leading cause of death in women. CHD claims more lives than the next six causes of death combined with more than one-half million women dying of CHD each year (AHA, 2006). The gap between women's perceived knowledge of CHD risk and their actual risk may contribute to these alarming statistics. The aims of this descriptive, cross-sectional study is to explore the perceived versus actual risk of CHD in women and to assess the relationship between knowledge of CHD in women and understanding of perceived risk. A sample of 106 subjects was evaluated with a self report questionnaire to determine knowledge and perception of CHD in women and their personal risk. All subjects underwent a lipid profile and blood pressure check to calculate their actual CHD 10 year risk using the Framingham Risk Score (FRS). The sample of women was on average 53 years old; 68% were Caucasian; were well educated (69% being college educated or more) and report an annual household income of $75,000 to $100,000. Important new findings of this study are the comparison between the women's perception of their CHD risk versus estimated 10 year risk of CHD. More than half of the women (55%) accurately perceived their risk; 7 % underestimated and 38% overestimated their risk. In addition, greater knowledge was significantly correlated with a more accurate perceived risk score (r=0.23; p≤ 0.05). This study is unique in that it describes women's perceived versus actual risk of CHD, after the national study by Mosca (2006 & 2004) identified the inadequate knowledge and awareness of women regarding heart disease risk. This study shows that knowledge, awareness and perception of CHD in women continue to progressively improve. This study also shows that opportunities for patient-health care provider discussions could be increased. Continued education and awareness for women about heart disease being the leading cause of death, risk factors for CHD and atypical heart attack symptoms is essential at the national level as well as in the clinical setting.

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