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coronary artery disease/radiography, health behaviors, psychological, risk assessment



  1. Johnson, Jennie E. PhD, RN-BC
  2. Gulanick, Meg PhD, APRN, FAAN
  3. Penckofer, Sue PhD, RN, FAAN
  4. Kouba, Joanne PhD, RD, LDN


Background: Evidence indicates that a healthy lifestyle can reduce cardiovascular disease risk, yet many people engage in unhealthy behaviors. New technologies such as coronary artery calcium (CAC) screening detect atherosclerosis before clinical disease is manifested. Knowledge of an abnormal finding could provide the "teachable moment" to enhance motivation for change.


Objective: The aim of this study was to examine how knowledge of CAC score affects risk perception, likelihood of taking action, and health-promoting behavior change in persons at high risk for cardiovascular disease.


Methods: This study used a descriptive prospective design with 174 high-risk adults (>=3 major risk factors) recruited at a radiology center offering CAC scans. Baseline self-report surveys using the Perception of Risk of Heart Disease Scale, the Benefits and Barriers Scale, the Quality of Life Index, and the Health-Promoting Lifestyle Profile II were completed immediately after a screening CAC scan but before results were known. Follow-up occurred 3 months later using mailed packets.


Results: Participants' mean age was 58 years; 62% were men, 89% were white, and most were well educated. There was no significant change in risk perception scores over time or between groups, except for a positive interaction in the moderate-risk group (CAC scores of 101-400) (P = .004). Quality of life remained unchanged. Health-promoting behavior changes increased in all groups over time (P < .001). McNemar [chi]2 analysis indicated that risk reduction medication use increased in all groups, with a significant increase in statin (P < .001) and aspirin (P < .001) intake. Predictors of behavior change were perceived barriers ([beta] = -.41; P < .001) and quality of life ([beta] = .44; P < .001).


Conclusions: Knowledge of CAC score does impact risk perception for some at-risk groups. This knowledge does enhance motivation for behavior change. Knowledge of CAC score does not impact quality of life. It is hoped that through improved understanding of the effect of CAC scoring on behavior change, nurses can better assist patients to modify behaviors during teachable moments.