Date of Award

Spring 5-7-2011

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Cecelia Grindel

Second Advisor

Laura Kimble

Third Advisor

Dee Baldwin


Significance: Morbidity and mortality related to CVD among women in the U.S. and most developed countries surpasses that of all cancers combined (AHA, 2008). Yet, CVD in women remains understudied, yielding low awareness among women and healthcare providers. The purpose of this study was to examine whether the relationship between health beliefs related to perceived cardiovascular disease (CVD) severity and health promoting behaviors were different in women with high self perception of CVD susceptibility versus women with low self perception of CVD susceptibility.

Methods: This study used a descriptive, correlational design. A convenience sample (N = 220) included female registered nurses (RNs), 23-66 years old (M = 48; SD = 9.7), mostly white (N = 143; 65%), who had worked in nursing an average of 21 years (SD = 11.3) and reported their job as stressful/very stressful (N = 129; 59%). Nurses were recruited from five acute care hospital systems in a large southeastern city. Data were collected using standard questionnaires that measured perceived CVD severity and susceptibility, social support, depression, stress, exercise and nutrition. Participants completed data collection via an online survey method.

Results: Data were analyzed using MANCOVA. For every standardized unit increase in perceived severity of CVD, participants had a 1.26 (95% CI: 0.02, 2.50) unit reduction in their healthy food choice score (lower scores = healthier food choices), and a 0.12 increase in their physical activity score (higher scores = more physical activity) (90% CI: 0.01, 0.23) unit. For every standardized unit increase in perceived CVD susceptibility there was an increase in the healthy food choice score by 2.37 (95% CI: 1.09, 3.65) units, and a reduction in the physical activity score by 0.27 (95% CI: 0.12, 0.41) unit. Greater age (p = 0.01) and greater depression (p = 0.001) were statistically significant predictors of lower physical activity. CVD susceptibility did not moderate the effect of CVD severity on nutrition or physical activity.

Conclusions: Higher perceived CVD severity was associated with increased likelihood for healthy food choices and physical activity. In contrast, higher perceived CVD susceptibility was associated with decreased likelihood for healthy food choices and physical activity. More research is needed to understand how susceptibility beliefs around CVD are formed in women and how to better engage women in risk reduction behavior.

Included in

Nursing Commons