Do Behavioral Counseling and Cardiovascular Disease Prevention Go Hand-in-Hand?

A recent report released by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force offers recommendations on Behavioral Counseling Interventions to Promote a Healthful Diet and Physical Activity for Cardiovascular Disease Prevention in Adults. According to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), more than 30 percent of both men and women in the Medicare population are estimated to be obese, which puts a significant percent of this population at risk for cardiovascular disease.

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In its analysis, the task force uncovered vital insight that can help inform preventative efforts nationwide. Just last year, CMS announced the addition of coverage for preventive services in an effort to reduce obesity. Under the new benefit, part of the Affordable Care Act, screening for obesity and counseling for eligible beneficiaries by primary care providers in settings such as physicians' offices are covered.

According to the report, the effectiveness of behavioral counseling varies on a patient's unique situation. "Although the correlation between healthful diet, physical activity, and the incidence of cardiovascular disease is strong, existing evidence indicates that the health benefit of initiating behavioral counseling in the primary care setting to promote a healthful diet and physical activity is small," the authors write. "Clinicians may choose to selectively provide this service to patients rather than incorporating it into the care of all adults in the general population." Numerous factors, including a variety of risk factors for cardiovascular disease; patient readiness for change; social support and community resources; and competing health care and preventive service priorities come into play when deciding if behavioral counseling is appropriate for a patient.

Ultimately, the task force's final recommendation urges health care professionals to focus their efforts on patients that will benefit the most from counseling on healthy habits, including not smoking, eating a healthy diet, being physically active, maintaining a healthy weight, and keeping blood pressure and blood cholesterol under control. The task force's preventative recommendation is aimed at adults over the age of 18 who do not have heart disease or risk factors of the disease, including high blood pressure, diabetes or high blood cholesterol.

The analysis did find that the intensity of counseling program impacts patients' diet and exercise habits as well as weight, blood pressure and blood cholesterol. While medium and high-intensity programs showed small to moderate benefits, low-intensity counseling programs failed to impact behaviors.

This report underscores the importance of providers collaborating with patients to determine the most appropriate path of care. The CardioSmart initiative aims to do just that— engage, inform and empower patients to better prepare them for participation in their own care. CardioSmart arms patients with everyday strategies for heart health and educates consumers on the daily choices — diet, exercise, habits, medication — that impact their health and wellness.

Visit to learn more or follow @CardioSmart on Twitter to stay up-to-date on the latest news impacting patients.

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