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Circulation. 2004 Feb 10;109(5):573-9. Epub 2004 Feb 4.

Tracking women's awareness of heart disease: an American Heart Association national study.

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  • 1NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital-Columbia University Medical Center, New York, NY 10032, USA.



Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is the leading cause of mortality in men and women in the United States, yet prior research has shown a lack of awareness of risk among women. The purpose of this study was to assess the contemporary awareness, knowledge, and perceptions related to CVD risk among American women and to evaluate trends since 1997, when the American Heart Association initiated a national campaign to improve awareness of CVD among women.


A telephone survey of a nationally representative random sample of women was conducted in June and July 2003, with an oversampling of black and Hispanic women; results were compared with those of similar surveys in 2000 and 1997. The present survey included 1024 respondents age > or =25 years; 68% were white, 12% black, 12% Hispanic, and 8% other ethnicities. Awareness, knowledge, and perceptions about heart disease were evaluated by use of a standard interviewer-assisted questionnaire. A shift in awareness of heart disease as the leading killer of women has occurred since 1997. In 2003, 46% of respondents spontaneously identified heart disease as the leading cause of death in women, up from 30% in 1997 (P<0.05) and 34% in 2000 (P<0.05). In contrast, the percentage of women citing cancer as leading cause of death has significantly decreased. Black, Hispanic, and younger women (<45 years old) had lower awareness of heart disease as their leading cause of death than did white and older women. Nearly all women reported comfort in discussing prevention with healthcare providers, but only 38% of women reported that their doctors had ever discussed heart disease with them.


Awareness of CVD has increased, although a significant gap between perceived and actual risk of CVD remains. Educational interventions to improve awareness and knowledge are needed, particularly for minority and younger women.

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