Inaccurate risk perceptions contribute to treatment gaps in secondary prevention of cardiovascular disease

J. Thakkar, E. L. Heeley, J. Chalmers, C. K. Chow

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Citations (Scopus)


Background: All patients with cardiovascular disease (CVD) are at high risk of recurrent events. Despite strong evidence, large treatment gaps exist in CVD secondary prevention. We hypothesise that patients' self-perception and general practitioner's (GP) assessment of future cardiovascular (CV) risk may influence secondary prevention behaviours. Aim: To examine in patients with known CVD the perceived risk of future CV events and its relationship with use of secondary prevention medications and risk factor control. Methods: We examined patient and practitioner's perceived risk and its relationship with the uptake of secondary prevention recommendations in adults with CVD participating in the Australian Hypertension and Absolute Risk Study. Results: Among the 1453 participants, only 11% reported having a high absolute risk and 29% reported high relative risk of recurrent events. The GP categorised only 30% as having a 5-year risk ≥15%. After adjusting for covariates, hospitalisation within the preceding 12months was the only significant predictor of patients' accurate risk perception. Conventional CV risk factors were predictive of the GP's risk estimates. Patients who accurately understood their risk reported higher smoking cessation rates (7 vs 3%, P=0.003) and greater use of antiplatelet, blood pressure lowering therapy and statins (P≤0.01). However, there was no relationship between GP's risk perception and secondary prevention treatments. Conclusion: Both patients and GP have optimistic bias and underestimate the risk of future CV events. Patients' accurate self-perception, but not GP risk perception, was associated with improved secondary preventative behaviours. This suggests that helping patients to understand their risk may influence their motivation towards secondary prevention. Providing support to GP or programmes to help patients better understand their risks could have potential benefit on secondary prevention behaviours.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)339-346
Number of pages8
JournalInternal Medicine Journal
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 12 Dec 2015


  • Cardiovascular diseases
  • Risk perception
  • Secondary prevention


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