Adults with type 2 diabetes tend to underestimate heart risks, study says

Jack Woodfield
Tue, 13 Dec 2016
Adults with type 2 diabetes tend to underestimate heart risks, study says
Adults with type 2 diabetes tend to underestimate their risk for cardiovascular complications, according to a global study.

The participants in this study particularly underestimated their risk for heart complications, with researchers recommending new ways of identifying biased perceptions of complications to encourage treatment adherence.

Scientists from the Health Economics Research Centre at the University of Oxford analysed data from 18 studies evaluating perceptions of risks for heart complications in adults with type 2 diabetes. Participants lived in the UK, US, Australia, Pakistan, Spain and the Netherlands, with all studies all published between 2002 and 2014.

Three studies found no alignment between perceived and calculated risks of developing or dying from coronary heart disease, while other research found that minority ethnic populations had a low perception of risks but higher optimistic bias of avoiding complications.

"There was a clear lack of awareness concerning the risk of diabetes-related complications," said the researchers.

"First, a focus group interview showed that people with type 2 diabetes often had a low perception of the link between diabetes-related risk factors and cardiovascular disease (CVD)," said the researchers.

"Second, two semi-structured interviews exploring lifetime risk perceptions of CVD in two different populations [black and white adults] pointed out that significant proportions of people did not even know that they were at risk."

In the largest study, the researchers found that 70 per cent of people with type 2 diabetes did not realise they had an increased risk of CVD.

Lead researcher Thomas Rouyard, PhD, MSc and colleagues recommend that a single perception score of risk should be generated through questionnaires, so participants are more informed about their risk estimates and how diabetes-related complications develop.

"Future work is needed to identify the best practical ways of correcting for biased risk perceptions so as to encourage self-care behaviours and treatment adherence," the study team concluded.

The findings have been published in the journal Diabetic Medicine.
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