Most adolescent and young women are unaware that heart disease is the leading cause of death in women in the United States, according to a survey presented at the American Heart Association Epidemiology, Prevention, Lifestyle and Cardiometabolic Health Scientific Sessions.
“We know that health behaviors and heart disease risk factors track strongly from childhood into adulthood, and that prevention of heart disease must start with youth, so we wanted to know what adolescent and young adult women knew about the risk of heart disease and what factors influenced their understanding and their behaviors,” Holly C. Gooding, MD, MS, assistant professor of pediatrics at Emory University School of Medicine, said in a press release.
The study surveyed 331 adolescent and young adult women aged 15 to 24 years who were attending primary care or women’s health care appointments in Boston. Results from the survey were used to develop a qualitative guide used during online semi-structured focus groups.
Researchers found that only 10% of adolescent and young adult women identified heart disease as the leading cause of death in women, only 4.8% identified it as a top health concern in women of all ages and only 0.9% thought it was a health concern to their age group.
Among those surveyed, 39.6% of women worried little about getting heart disease and 37.2% were not at all concerned about getting heart disease. Mood disorders were the most noted health concerns for women of all ages (19.9%) and in the adolescent and young adult age group (17.8%). Among adolescent and young adult women, 42.9% reported being worried a lot that they would develop depression and anxiety.
Focus groups found that among the reasons adolescent and young adult women gave for not being concerned about heart disease included belief that heart disease is associated with an older population of women, other health priorities and lack of perceived risk.
“It is concerning that only 10% of them recognize that heart disease is their No. 1 risk and their No. 1 killer. But that tells us that we need to continue to educate. We need to have parents educating,” Mary Ann Bauman, MD, primary care practitioner and science volunteer for the AHA, said in a perspective provided by the AHA. “We need to have teachers educating. We need to have their doctors educating because many of these young women go to their doctor regularly. So those are things that we definitely need to do.” – by Erin Michael
Gooding HC, et al. Abstract 050. Presented at: American Heart Association Epidemiology, Prevention, Lifestyle and Cardiometabolic Health Scientific Sessions; March 5-8, 2019; Houston.
Disclosures: The authors report no relevant financial disclosures.