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  1. Heitman, Linda K. RN, PhD, CS


This article looks in depth at the concept of social support and the potential it has to influence cardiovascular health promotion in families. The health behaviors that families share influence the health of family members. Exploring these health behaviors can help nurses identify opportunities that can assist families to encourage positive health behaviors and change negative behaviors that may decrease the risk of cardiovascular disease for the entire family.


Social relationships can encourage, or discourage, particular behaviors that can directly affect health of family members or significant others. The behaviors shared within the family serve to reinforce health beliefs and sustain subsequent health behaviors over a lifetime. 1,2 Therefore, relationships within a family can actually define the health of its members. 3 Antonucci and Johnson proposed that these relationships can influence health before an illness, occurs, during treatment of an acute illness, and throughout the processes of recovery and rehabilitation. 4 For this reason, it is imperative to explore relationships within families at known risk for cardiovascular disease (CVD). Exploration of these relationships can help to identify behaviors that may have positive or negative influences upon health. When these behaviors are identified, opportunities for interventions to change negative behaviors may be introduced in an attempt to reduce cardiovascular risk and promote health for the entire family. In order to understand the multifaceted ways in which social support can affect cardiovascular health, it is essential to review the ways in which social support has been conceptualized.