Fifteen-Year Trends in Awareness of Heart Disease in Women: Results of a 2012 American Heart Association National Survey

Study Questions:

Has awareness of cardiovascular disease (CVD), including symptoms and preventive behaviors/barriers among women, changed over time?


The American Heart Association (AHA) has conducted national surveys periodically since 1997. In 2012, the AHA conducted a study of awareness of CVD among US women >25 years of age, identified through random-digit dialing (n = 1,205) and Harris Poll Online (n = 1,227), in a similar manner to prior AHA national surveys. Standardized questions on awareness were given to all women. Additional questions about preventive behaviors/barriers were given online. Data were weighted, and results were compared with triennial surveys since 1997.


Women responding to the survey in 2012 were significantly more likely to be in the age groups of 45-54 and 55-64 years, to be married/cohabitating, and to have a household income of $75,000 or more compared with 1997 respondents. In 2012, there were more white women than other racial/ethnic minorities who were ≥65 years old. Hispanic women were more likely to be in the youngest age strata compared with white and black women. Personal medical history of respondents revealed a high prevalence of CVD risk factors, consistent with other national data. Between 1997 and 2012, the rate of awareness of CVD as the leading cause of death nearly doubled (56% vs. 30%; p < 0.001). The rate of awareness among black and Hispanic women in 2012 (36% and 34%, respectively) was similar to that of white women in 1997 (33%). In 1997, women were more likely to cite cancer than CVD as the leading killer (35% vs. 30%), but in 2012, the trend reversed (24% vs. 56%). Awareness of atypical symptoms of CVD has improved since 1997, but remains low. The most common reasons why women took preventive action were to improve health and to feel better, not to live longer.


The authors concluded that awareness of CVD among women has improved in the past 15 years, but a significant racial/ethnic minority gap persists. Continued effort is needed to reach at-risk populations. These data should inform public health campaigns to focus on evidence-based strategies to prevent CVD and to help target messages that resonate and motivate women to take action.


These data provide a message of hope, but also of concern. More women are aware of CVD in 2012 compared to 1997; however, significant gaps exist. Improvements in awareness for specific ethnic groups, including black and Hispanic women, are warranted.

Keywords: Ethnic Groups, Women, Cardiovascular Diseases, Hispanic Americans, Awareness

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