The primary prevention of heart disease in women through health behavior change promotion in primary care

Evelyn P. Whitlock, Selvi B. Williams

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


Purpose. To summarize recent evidence-based recommendations for physical activity promotion, dietary improvement, and tobacco cessation from the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) and the Task Force on Community Preventive Services (CTF), and examine their applicability to the primary prevention of cardiovascular disease (CVD) in women through primary care interventions. Methods. For the behaviors cited, USPSTF and CTF recommendations and their associated systematic evidence reviews (SERs) were retrieved. Individual articles from the USPSTF healthy diet and physical activity SERs that met our inclusion criteria were systematically examined to determine the applicability of this research to women. We supplemented findings from these sources with comprehensive federal research summaries and SERs from focused searches of systematic review databases relevant to primary CVD prevention in women through healthy behavior change. Main Findings. The USPSTF strongly recommends primary care interventions for tobacco cessation. Strong CTF recommendations for multicomponent systems supports for clinicians, telephone support for quitters, and reduced patient costs for effective cessation therapies guide complementary approaches to assist clinicians. The USPSTF recommends intensive behavioral dietary counseling by specialists for high-risk CVD patients, but found insufficient evidence to recommend for routine healthy diet or physical activity promotion in primary care. The evidence base for these recommendations generally applies to women. Better reporting of gender and minority subgroup outcomes will assist more in-depth understanding of potential differences in either the processes or outcomes of behavior change interventions. Conclusions. Primary care clinicians, including obstetrician-gynecologists, can contribute to preventing CVD in women through implementing credible evidence-based recommendations for clinical interventions in tobacco and healthy diet. Researchers can further our understanding of gender-specific issues in healthy behavior interventions by reporting process and outcome data for gender and minority subgroups.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)122-141
Number of pages20
JournalWomen's Health Issues
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2003


  • Cardiovascular diseases
  • Health behavior
  • Health promotion
  • Primary health care
  • Primary prevention
  • Women's health

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Obstetrics and Gynecology
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Maternity and Midwifery


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