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Many underestimate their own risk of cardiovascular disease

2021-09-24

The Swedish public is becoming increasingly sedentary and are exercising less and less. At the same time, two million Swedes live with cardiovascular disease, which is the leading cause of death in Sweden. Still, the results from a study based on findings from the Swedish Cardiopulmonary Bioimage Study, or SCAPIS for short, show one in three underestimates their risk of developing cardiovascular disease. Research supported by the Swedish Heart Lung Foundation: Hjärt-Lungfonden.

“Our lifestyles have changed and have become increasingly sedentary. New research is needed to find out how this affects us,” says Kristina Sparreljung, Secretary General of Hjärt-Lungfonden.

The study found that people who perceive their health as very good and who did not have cardiovascular disease in the family largely underestimates their own cardiovascular risk. Which differentiates them from people who rated their health as worse. This applies regardless of how well educated people are and how good they are at absorbing information and making decisions about their own health.

Åsa Grauman
Åsa Grauman

“Cardiovascular disease develops slowly and the risk factors accumulate in silence during the course of life. For prevention work and treatment to be successful, a person’s own awareness of the risk of cardiovascular disease is important,” says Åsa Grauman, researcher at Uppsala University’s Centre for Research Ethics & Bioethics.

Individuals tend to underestimate the risk of disease if they are feeling well. But cardiovascular disease develops slowly and is often asymptomatic until the day heart attack strikes.

The researchers asked questions to 526 randomly selected people between the ages of 50 and 65 who were participating in the large SCAPIS study on cardiovascular disease. Then the participants' perceived risk was compared with the medically calculated risk.

Find our more (in Swedish)

Åsa Grauman, Jorien Veldwijk, Stefan James, Mats Hansson, Liisa Byberg, Good general health and lack of family history influence the underestimation of cardiovascular risk: a cross-sectional study, European Journal of Cardiovascular Nursing, 2021;, zvab019