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Heart health strategies should be personalized

February 24, 2009 by  

It is not just enough to tell somebody to live a healthy life. It is not enough to know one’s risk profile for cardiovascular (CV) disease. Prevention strategies should be personalized, according the health experts at the University of Exeter in the UK.

Different people will respond differently upon the news of their CV risk. Some of the responses would be:

  • Fear and shpck
  • Downplaying the risk in one’s own mind by benchmarking against others of the same age
  • Behavioral and lifestyle changes

The response may depend on many factors, including age, gender, and sociocultural factors.

The goal is to produce interventions which are sensitive to the lives and social position of those who find themselves at ‘high risk’ of coronary heart disease (CHD) in later-middle age, and which inspire change rather than inhibit it,” say researchers, from Egenis, the ESRC Centre for Genomics in Society at the University of Exeter.

Previous primary care strategies include scaring people and boosting their vulnerability. However, the fear factor can actually hinder the desired behavioural changes.

Currently, it is a common practice in primary health care to conduct screening for certain health risks. In particular, people with family histories of certain diseases are urged to know their risk profile.

The study by the University of Exeter researchers investigated how people responded to the bad news of high risk diagnosis following coronary heart disease screening. The study participants included 38 people interviewed right after screening.

According to lead author Dr. Hannah Farrimond:

“We found that patients struggled to maintain their sense of being ‘healthy’ in the face of their new ‘high risk’ status. The older they were, the more patients treated the risk of CHD as a normal part of getting older. They would downplay their sense of vulnerability by, for example, comparing their own weight and diet favourably with that of their friends.”

Most study participants already believe that they eat a healthy and balanced diet, or that their lifestyle is relatively “heart-healthier” than those of their peers. The standard dietary and physical activity rules may not be therefore acceptable or applicable in these cases.

The study results suggest that intervention and prevention programs should take into account the “social environment and age of the target group.” In addition, lifestyle change strategies should be customized to the patient’s needs.

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NOTE: The contents in this blog are for informational purposes only, and should not be construed as medical advice, diagnosis, treatment or a substitute for professional care. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health professional before making changes to any existing treatment or program. Some of the information presented in this blog may already be out of date.