Misconceptions regarding heart disease are prevalent among american adults and minors

(1) James S. Rickards High School, Tallahassee, Florida, (2) Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia

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Health literacy refers to the knowledge base and ability to access, understand, and utilize basic health information to participate in health decisions (1). It is an invisible barrier to effective healthcare delivery and leads to significant costs for individual as well as public health. Health literacy has been associated with limited knowledge of health conditions (2-4), medications (5), poor overall health status (6, 7), higher healthcare costs (8, 9), increased likelihood of rehospitalization (10), and mortality (11-13). This fundamental need to improve general knowledge and health literacy is especially important in cardiovascular diseases because (1) they account for more deaths in the US than any other cause including more deaths than all cancers combined, and (2) it is felt that 80% of cardiovascular deaths may be preventable. The authors were interested in assessing the knowledge level of adults and minors about cardiovascular diseases. A survey was administered to assess fundamental knowledge of demographic factors pertinent to heart disease, risk factors of heart disease, healthy dietary and exercise habits, and other general knowledge about heart disease. Our study demonstrated that significant misconceptions and knowledge deficits regarding cardiovascular diseases exist among US adults and minors. Reductions in the death burden from cardiovascular disease will require a multi-faceted approach, including removal of this invisible barrier of misconceptions and knowledge deficits by increasing public awareness about these diseases. Action must be taken to improve public knowledge and improve health literacy about heart disease in the United States.

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