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Men's Health

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Men don't accurately perceive their risk of stroke due to their high blood pressure

High blood pressure (hypertension) is one of several risk factors for stroke, along with smoking, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and other conditions. Yet perception of the risk of stroke among men with hypertension does not correlate with their actual risk as calculated using the Framingham stroke risk (FSR) scale, according to a new study. This suggests the need for better patient education on the stroke risks associated with hypertension, note the Duke University researchers. They used the FSR to calculate the actual stroke risk of 296 veterans enrolled in a study to improve hypertension control, and then asked them to assess their hypertension-related stroke risk using a 10-point scale (1 as lowest risk and 10 as highest risk).

About one in five men (22 percent) perceived themselves as having a high risk of stroke, which was accurate based on their high FSR. However, 78 percent of men underestimated their stroke risk as compared with their FSR. These men were significantly less likely to be worried about their blood pressure than men who accurately perceived their risk (12.4 vs. 69.6 percent). Also, those at highest stroke risk knew less about hypertension than men at lower risk. Despite major efforts to boost public awareness of stroke risk, this study suggests that patients with hypertension may not adequately translate their vascular risk factors into an accurate estimate of their stroke risk.

Developing tailored patient education materials that incorporate personal risk could be a promising strategy to correct inaccurate perceptions, suggest the researchers. Their study was supported in part by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (T32 HS00079).

More details are in "Perceived and actual stroke risk among men with hypertension," by Benjamin J. Powers, M.D., Eugene Z. Oddone, M.D., M.H.S., Janet M. Grubber, M.S.P.H., and others, in the April 2008 Journal of Clinical Hypertension 10(4), pp. 287-294.

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