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J Womens Health Gend Based Med. 2001 Mar;10(2):117-36.

Cardiovascular health interventions in women: What works?

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  • 1Department of Community Medicine, West Virginia University School of Medicine, Morgantown, West Virginia 26505-9190, USA.


Women's Cardiovascular Health Network members representing 10 Prevention Research Centers completed a literature review of approximately 65 population-based studies focused on improving women's cardiovascular health through behavior change for tobacco use, physical inactivity, or diet. A framework was developed for conducting the search. Databases (Medline, Psychlit, Smoking and Health, Cumulative Index to Nursing and Allied Health Literature) of studies published from 1980 to 1998 were searched. The review was presented at a meeting of experts held in Atlanta, Georgia. Output from the meeting included identification of what has worked to improve cardiovascular health in women and recommendations for future behavioral research. Additional information is available at Cardiovascular health interventions geared toward women are scant. Based on the available studies, program components that emerged as effective included personalized advice on diet and physical activity behaviors and tobacco cessation, multiple staff contacts with skill building, daily self-monitoring, and combinations of strategies. Recommendations for community-based tobacco, physical activity, and diet interventions are discussed. A few overarching recommendations were to (1) conduct qualitative research to determine the kinds of interventions women want, (2) examine relapse prevention, motivation, and maintenance of behavior change, (3) tailor programs to the stage of the life cycle, a woman's readiness to change, and subgroups, that is, minority, low socioeconomic, and obese women, and (4) evaluate policy and environmental interventions. The effects of cardiovascular interventions in women have been inappropriately understudied in women. Our review found that few studies on cardiovascular risk factor modification have actually targeted women. Hence, adoption and maintenance of behavior change in women are elusive. Intervention research to improve women's cardiovascular health is sorely needed.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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