Canadian Journal of Cardiology

Perceived vs Actual Knowledge and Risk of Heart Disease in Women: Findings From a Canadian Survey on Heart Health Awareness, Attitudes, and Lifestyle



      Heart disease is a leading cause of morbidity and mortality in men and women. Our understanding of heart disease stems chiefly from clinical trials on men, but key features of the disease differ in women. This article reports findings from the first Canadian national survey of women that focuses on knowledge, perceptions, and lifestyle related to heart health.


      A cross-country survey using an adaptation of an instrument used in the United States was undertaken in spring of 2013. Based on online (208) and telephone (1446) responses from a randomly selected sample of women aged 25 or older, a total sample of 1654 weighted percentage estimates were produced. The overall response rate was 12.5%.


      Just under half of women were able to name smoking as a risk factor of heart disease, and less than one quarter named hypertension or high cholesterol. Fewer than half of women knew the major symptoms of heart disease. Most women prefer to receive information on heart health from their doctor, but only slightly more than half report that their doctor includes discussion of prevention and lifestyle during clinical consultations.


      Most women lack knowledge of heart disease symptoms and risk factors, and significant proportions are unaware of their own risk status. The findings underscore the opportunity for patient education and intervention regarding risk and prevention of heart disease.



      La cardiopathie est l’une des principales causes de morbidité et de mortalité chez les hommes et les femmes. Notre compréhension de la cardiopathie provient surtout d’essais cliniques portant sur les hommes. Cependant, les caractéristiques principales de la maladie diffèrent de celles des femmes. Cet article rapporte les conclusions de la première enquête nationale canadienne sur les femmes mettant l’accent sur les connaissances, les perceptions et le mode de vie liés à la santé cardiovasculaire.


      Une enquête nationale à l’aide d’une adaptation d’un outil utilisé aux États-Unis a été entreprise au printemps 2013. À partir des réponses en ligne (208) et par téléphone (1446) provenant d’un échantillon de femmes de 25 ans et plus sélectionnées au hasard, un échantillon total de 1654 estimations du pourcentage pondéré ont été produites. Le taux global de réponses était de 12,5 %.


      Un peu moins de la moitié des femmes étaient capables de citer le tabagisme comme étant un facteur de risque de la cardiopathie, et moins d’un quart d’entre elles citaient l’hypertension ou le cholestérol élevé. Moins de la moitié des femmes connaissaient les principaux symptômes de la cardiopathie. La plupart des femmes préfèrent recevoir de l’information sur la santé cardiovasculaire par leur médecin, mais seulement un peu plus de la moitié d’entre elles rapportent que leur médecin aborde la prévention et le mode de vie durant les consultations cliniques.


      La plupart des femmes manquent de connaissances sur les symptômes et les facteurs de risque de la cardiopathie et une proportion importante ne connaît pas son propre niveau de risque. Les conclusions font ressortir l’importance de l’éducation et des interventions auprès des patientes concernant le risque et la prévention de la cardiopathie.
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      Linked Article

      • Issues About Knowledge and Risk of Heart Disease in Women
        Canadian Journal of CardiologyVol. 30Issue 11
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          Sir, the recent report on “Perceived vs Actual Knowledge and Risk of Heart Disease in Women” is very interesting.1 McDonnell et al. concluded that “most women lack knowledge of heart disease symptoms and risk factors, and significant proportions are unaware of their own risk status.” The global challenges affecting women's knowledge of heart disease and risk management constitute a very interesting issue for further discussion. According to the most basic conception of public health, knowledge is the essential requirement for the proper formulation of health-related attitudes and behaviors.
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