How to describe heart risk so patients will listen

Giving long-term chances of MI or stroke makes patients more willing to take medications, study shows

GPs may need to rethink how they explain heart disease risk because patients often misunderstand their own odds and the potential consequences, a study suggests.

Researchers have found that patients are 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 an MI or stroke.

That's most likely because the long-term risk is generally a larger numeral, says the study published in JAMA Cardiology.

The researchers  led by Dr Ann Marie Navar from the Duke Clinical Research Institute in the US state of North Carolina recruited 2708 patients from 140 US cardiology, endocrinology and primary care practices.

First the patients were told to imagine that their doctor had told them that they had a 15% risk of having a heart attack or stroke in the next 10 years.