USPSTF: Offer behavioral counseling to prevent cardiovascular disease




Overweight or obese adults at risk for cardiovascular disease should receive intensive behavioral counseling interventions, according to a recommendation statement by the U. S. Preventive Services Task Force.

After a comprehensive review of the current literature, the USPSTF concluded "with moderate certainty" that interventions promoting a healthful diet and increased physical activity have a moderate net benefit in this patient population, said Dr. Michael L. LeFevre, chair of the task force at the time the recommendation was finalized, and professor of family medicine at the University of Missouri, Columbia.

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New research shows that obese adults at risk for heart disease should receive behavioral counseling interventions to help with dietary and physical activity regimens.

The recommendation statement issued Aug. 25 is "an update and refinement" of the 2003 USPSTF recommendation on dietary counseling for at-risk adults, this time targeting overweight or obese patients who have additional CVD risk factors such as hypertension, dyslipidemia, impaired fasting glucose, or metabolic syndrome.

The group reviewed 74 trials assessing the effectiveness of behavioral counseling interventions of various intensities. Only 16 reported on direct health outcomes such as CVD events, mortality, or quality of life, the task force noted, so there is inadequate evidence about intensive behavioral counseling’s effect on such outcomes.

A total of 71 trials involving more than 32,000 participants focused on intermediate health outcomes such as lipid levels, blood pressure, glucose levels, weight, and medication use. Overall, intensive counseling interventions made "small but important changes" in these outcomes, with total cholesterol levels decreasing approximately 3-6 mg/dL, LDL cholesterol decreasing by 1.5-5.0 mg/dL, systolic blood pressure decreasing by 1-3 mm Hg, diastolic blood pressure decreasing by 1-2 mm Hg, and fasting glucose levels decreasing by 1-3 mg/dL.

In addition, weight decreased by a mean of approximately 3 kg, and the proportion of patients who participated in moderate-intensity exercise for 150 minutes per week rose from 10% to 25%. However, few of these studies followed patients for more than 1-2 years, so the evidence was inadequate to assess longer-term benefits.

Because very few and mostly minor adverse events were associated with these interventions, they yielded a moderate net benefit.

Most of the intensive behavioral counseling interventions that were assessed averaged 5-16 individual or group sessions during a period of 9-12 months. All included didactic education; in most programs, specially trained professionals (dietitians, nutritionists, physiotherapists, exercise professionals, health educators, and psychologists) provided monitoring and feedback for the participants, devised individualized care plans, and taught problem-solving skills. Many types and combinations of interventions were effective, and almost all were delivered outside the primary care setting.

The recommendation statement is in line with others published by the American Heart Association, the American College of Sports Medicine, and the American Academy of Family Physicians. The AAFP is updating its recommendations regarding behavioral counseling to prevent CVD, Dr. LeFevre and his associates noted.

The USPSTF, funded by but independent of the federal government, makes recommendations about the effectiveness of specific preventive-care services based on evidence of benefits and harms, without considering costs.

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