Cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk factor awareness and knowledge are believed to be prerequisites for adopting healthy lifestyle behaviors. The purpose of this study was to examine knowledge of CVD risk factors and risk perception among individuals with high CVD risk.
The sample consisted of inner city and rural medically underserved patients at high risk of CVD. To be eligible for the trial, subjects were required to have a 10% or greater CVD risk on the Framingham risk score. Knowledge of CVD was assessed with a 29-item questionnaire created for this study. Subjects also rated their perception of risk as compared with individuals of their own sex and age.
Data were collected from 465 subjects (mean [SD] age, 60.5 [10.1] years; mean [SD] Framingham risk score, 17.3% [9.5%]). The mean (SD) CVD knowledge score was 63.7% (14.6%), and mean (SD) level of risk perception was 0.35 (1.4). Men and women had similar Framingham risk scores, but women perceived their risk to be significantly higher than that of their male counterparts. Women were also more knowledgeable than men about CVD. Urban participants had significantly higher actual risks than did their rural counterparts (18.2% [10.7%] vs 16.0% [8.9%], respectively; P = .01) but were significantly less knowledgeable about heart disease and also perceived their risk to be lower.
These results indicate a low perception of risk and cardiovascular knowledge especially among men and inner city residents. Innovative educational strategies are needed to increase risk factor knowledge and awareness among at-risk individuals.