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Arch Hellen Med, 27(5), September-October 2010, 793-802


The level of education is the most important determinant
of the perceptions of the general public about the relationship of diet to cardiovascular disease

1Department of Nutrition Science-Dietetics, "Harokopio" University of Athens, Athens,
2Medical School, National and Kapodistrian University of Athens, Athens,
3Medical School, University of Ioannina, Ioannina, Greece

OBJECTIVE To investigate the factors which determine the perceptions and beliefs of the general population about the relationship between diet and cardiovascular disease.

METHOD A random sample of 4,799 adults from different cities in Greece was studied, of which 44.2% were men, mean age 40.35±16 years and 55.8% women, mean age 38.06±15 years. A scale assessing knowledge and perceptions of nutrition as a cardiovascular risk factor was used, consisting of 10 questions which were classified as true-false, from which a score of from 0 (very poor knowledge) to 10 (perfect knowledge) was created.

RESULTS The average diet-knowledge-score was 5.39±1.6 in men and 5.76±1.5 in women (p<0.001). Positive correlation was found between the score and the age of participants (r=0.145, p<0.001) and the years of study (r=0.044, p=0.002). People with the higher educational levels had the lowest prevalence of major risk factors for cardiovascular disease. Although people with lower educational levels frequently believed that unhealthy diet is a cardiovascular risk factor and that olive oil, fruits and vegetables can reduce cardiovascular risk, people with lower education levels had the greatest degree of ignorance concerning the most important nutritional risks (i.e., saturated fats and salt) for cardiovascular disease.

CONCLUSIONS Public health care authorities should highlight the problem of the low level of knowledge of the population regarding nutrition and cardiovascular risk, and should take immediate action to remedy this situation in order to reduce cardiovascular morbidity in the country. It must become a national priority to develop informed patients who participate in health care processes and health-related decision making and disease prevention and management.

Key words: Attitudes, Beliefs, Cardiovascular diseases, Educational status, Knowledge, Risk factors.

© Archives of Hellenic Medicine