Self-assessed and self-reported lifestyle of people at risk of cardiovascular diseases

Eeva-Leena Ylimäki, Outi I. Kanste, Hanna P. Heikkinen, Risto Bloigu, Helvi A. Kyngäs


Background: Lifestyle affects the risk of suffering from cardiovascular diseases. Lifestyle and health behaviour are most commonly studied by using self-assessment and self-reporting as a research method. The purpose of this study was to illustrate how asymptomatic people with a diagnosed risk of cardiovascular diseases assess and report their current lifestyle. In particular, the study evaluated how the participants’ self-assessed and self-reported lifestyles correlated with health parameters that were measured such as blood pressure, cholesterol level, body mass index (BMI) and waist circumference.

Methods: The study material was obtained from a cardiovascular health project in Lapland, Finland, which aimed at identifying 40-year-old individuals at risk of cardiovascular disease. Screening consisted of blood tests (total level of cholesterol, HDL, LDL, plasma glucose) and health parameter measurements (blood pressure, BMI and waist circumference). All participants filled in a diabetes risk test, lifestyle questionnaire and dietary and physical activity diaries. Data analyses included statistical analyses, cross-tabulation, Fisher’s Exact test (FET) and Micro-Nutrica Nutritional Analysis Program.

Results: 37.3% of the participants assessed themselves to be obese and 54.9% thought themselves to be slightly overweight although the calculated average BMI (30.7 ± 5.4 kg/m2) showed clearly that they were overweight. Over half of the participants (54.7%) assessed themselves as having the recommended amount of everyday physical activity per week but the physical activity diaries showed that the real amount was significantly less and inadequate in terms of their health. Inadequate physical activity was connected to obesity. As well as the use of hard fat, vegetable and fibre intake was too low which may have contributed to the elevated total cholesterol and LDL levels in the blood tests. This research showed both over- and under-reporting. Particularly, differences in reporting were observed between overweight and normal weight participants in addition to those whose blood test results exceeded recommended level compared with those having results within the normal range. Over half of the participants assessed their health to be either good or at least quite good. Some correlation between the self-assessed lifestyle and health parameters measured were found.

Conclusions: The strengths of this study were the multifaceted data collection approach, which provided a versatile view of studying lifestyle, and the special nature of engaging voluntary participants to screenings and the reporting process. Participants’ own assessments regarding their lifestyle were not fully in line with either the reported lifestyle or health parameter measurement results. This study clearly showed that physical activity and food diaries together with health parameter measurements provide additional information about self-assessed lifestyle.


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Journal of Nursing Education and Practice

ISSN 1925-4040 (Print)   ISSN 1925-4059 (Online)

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