Perceptions of risk: understanding cardiovascular disease
Ruth Webster1, Emma Heeley2
1Cardiovascular Division, 2Neurological and Mental Health Division, The George Institute for International Health, Camperdown, NSW, Australia
Abstract: Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is still the leading cause of death and disability worldwide despite the availability of well-established and effective preventive options. Accurate perception of a patient’s risk by both the patient and the doctors is important as this is one of the components that determine health-related behavior. Doctors tend to not use cardiovascular (CV) risk calculators and underestimate the absolute CV risk of their patients. Patients show optimistic bias when considering their own risk and consistently underestimate it. Poor patient health literacy and numeracy must be considered when thinking about this problem. Patients must possess a reasonably high level of understanding of numerical processes when doctors discuss risk, a level that is not possessed by large numbers of the population. In order to overcome this barrier, doctors need to utilize various tools including the appropriate use of visual aids to accurately communicate risk with their patients. Any intervention has been shown to be better than nothing in improving health understanding. The simple process of repeatedly conveying risk information to a patient has been shown to improve accuracy of risk perception. Doctors need to take responsibility for the accurate assessment and effective communication of CV risk in their patients in order to improve patient uptake of cardioprotective lifestyle choices and preventive medications.
Keywords: risk perception, cardiovascular disease, cardioprotective lifestyle
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