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How doctors describe heart risk can affect patient willingness to act

By Linda Carroll

(Reuters Health) – Patients often misunderstand their own odds of experiencing heart disease and its potential consequences, and that means doctors may need to rethink how they explain risk, a new study suggests. Researchers found that patients were more worried about heart disease and more willing to take preventive medications when told about their long-term, rather than short-term, chances of having problems like heart attack or stroke. That’s most likely because the long-term risk generally is a larger numeral, the study team writes in JAMA Cardiology. So, for example, when a patient is told she has a 50 percent risk of developing heart disease over the rest of her lifetime, she may be more concerned than if she’s told she’s got a 4 percent risk of dying from a heart attack in the next 10 years, even though both may be true.



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