“Heart disease never entered my head”: Women's understanding of coronary heart disease risk factors

Rita Smith, Kate Frazer, Abbey Hyde, Laserina O'Connor, Patricia Davidson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Aims and Objectives: This study investigated experiences of women with a primary diagnosis of ACS (NSTEMI & Unstable Angina). The study explored how women interpreted their risk for coronary heart disease (CHD) and how this influenced their treatment-seeking decisions. Background: Efforts to reduce the incidence of cardiovascular disease, the number one killer of women, require aggressive risk factor modification, risk assessment and evidence-based treatments. CHD is largely preventable; however, despite the availability of evidence on prevention and risk factor reduction, it appears that misunderstandings persist. Design: A naturalistic case study design guided this study. Methods: Thirty women participated (n = 30); a within-case analysis was followed by a cross-case analysis. Data collection included participant diaries and face-to-face interviews. Data were analysed using modified analytic induction which allowed the emergence of theoretical insights. Results: This article provides insight into women's perception of risk for CHD, particularly in relation to smoking. The findings provide a platform for a wider discourse on women's interpretation of their risk for CHD and their treatment-seeking decisions. The data reflect the ongoing misunderstanding that CHD affects men more than women. Conclusions: More focus is needed on risk factor management and CHD symptom presentation in women. An emphasis on the chronic disease aspect of CHD may promote a timely focus on secondary prevention and the follow-up needed through patient education and empowerment. Relevance to Clinical Practice: This study demonstrates that primary and secondary prevention education initiatives are needed for CHD risk factor management and symptom interpretation. The implications of smoking on cardiovascular health need further dissemination. Efforts to support smoking cessation need to be strengthened and widely accessible. Primary care can have a key role to play in managing CHD risk and supporting women with positive risk factors.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3953-3967
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of clinical nursing
Issue number21-22
StatePublished - Nov 2018


  • coronary heart disease
  • health risks
  • risk assessment
  • symptom perception
  • women's health

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Nursing(all)


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