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Young women's knowledge and beliefs about coronary heart disease

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Brown, Kimberly R.
Westphal, Judith
MS, Nursing-Family Nurse Practioner
May 2011
Coronary heart disease; Heart diseases in women - Risk factors; Women - Health and hygiene
Coronary heart disease (CHD) is the number one killer of women in the United States today, affecting nearly one out of every two women at some point in their lives. Studies show that women lack a general knowledge of heart disease and underestimate their personal risks for the development of this disease. Primary prevention strategies via healthy lifestyle modifications are the most effective way to prevent heart disease; however, these strategies are not being discussed with women in the primary care setting. As is consistent with the Health Belief Model, which guided this study, this lack of knowledge about heart disease can indicate that women are unaware of their risks and will thus perceive it as less of a threat than it truly is. This, in turn, will reduce their likelihood of partaking in healthy lifestyle modifications to reduce their risks. Given this, it is especially important for providers to discuss these strategies with younger women to prevent the future development of heart disease risk factors. Unfortunately, studies specifically targeting young women's knowledge and perceptions of heart disease are lacking. This study assessed young women's(age 18 to 25 years) knowledge and perceptions about heart disease using a convenience sample of women from a small, Midwest university via the distribution and collection of surveys during an "Active Lifestyles" course offered at the college. This research found that over 77% of those surveyed had never discussed CHD with their primary care provider. Further, these women did not perceive themselves to be at a great risk for CHD and did not see the disease as a threat. In addition, the average score on the CHD knowledge test was only 68.5%, indicating an overall lack of knowledge. These results highlight the extreme need for primary care providers to provide continued CHD education to young women at each and every available opportunity in an effort to reduce their future risk of this deadly disease.
A Clinical Paper submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Science in Nursing-Family Nurse Practitioner
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