Public perceptions of cardiovascular risk in five European countries: The react survey
Little is known of the attitudes and behaviours of the general public with regard to their general and personal risk factors for coronary heart disease (CHD), particularly in relation to cholesterol. This study attempted to determine patient perceptions of general population and personal risks regarding cardiovascular disease. Face-to-face interviews were conducted with 5104 members of the public in five countries (France, Germany, Italy, Sweden and the UK). Main results showed only 45% of the public correctly identified CHD as the leading cause of death in their country, and only 51% were aware that high cholesterol increases CHD risk. The presence of cardiovascular disease or risk factors in respondents did not appear to alter perceptions of risk compared with the public who had no existing disease. Of the different nationalities interviewed, the Swedes and the Germans appeared to be most aware of CHD risk factors. Awareness and knowledge of LDL-C and HDL-C were very poor in all countries except Italy. Half of the general public (50%) reported they had never discussed their cholesterol levels with a physician and only 33% knew what their target level was. Despite this, the most common source of information on CHD and cholesterol was the physician (60%). Only 9% of the total sample reported that they were currently taking medication for high cholesterol, compared with 20% for hypertension. In summary the general public in several European countries has major lack of awareness of the risks of CHD. This gap in knowledge is particularly marked over the risks of high cholesterol. Significant public health education is required.