Background: Cardiovascular (CV) disease is the leading cause of death in U.S. women. Although women are becoming more aware of CV disease, there remains a dichotomy between awareness and perceived risk. We sought to characterize this dichotomy in women attracted to a CV health-screening event, in order to improve strategies to reduce CV risk. Methods: During CV health events held in Rochester, Minnesota, from 2007 through 2011, 294 women underwent screening for blood chemistry, body mass index, and blood pressure. Participants also completed surveys about knowledge of CV disease, risk factors, and perceived risk. Risk level was determined from the 2011 American Heart Association Effectiveness-Based Guidelines for Women. Results: Among participants (age, mean [standard deviation], 53 [15.3] years; white, 98%), 99% were aware that CV disease is the leading cause of death in women. Almost half (47%) perceived themselves to be at personal risk, although 65% were determined to be "at risk" and 12% to be at "high risk" according to guidelines, while 22% were uncategorized. Of the 228 participants "at risk" or "high risk," 48% and 21%, respectively, did not perceive themselves to be at any risk. Conclusions: Women attracted to CV health events were aware that CV disease is the leading cause of death for women. However, the magnitude of awareness did not directly translate into perception or understanding of actual personal risk. To decrease the rate of CV disease in women, continued efforts are needed to personalize the importance of, and the methods for reducing, CV risk factors.
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