lupus, heart disease, cardiovascular, risk, awareness


Women with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) develop cardiovascular disease (CVD) earlier and at a more accelerated rate compared to women without SLE. Many women with SLE are unaware of their increased risk despite years spent in the health care system, thus giving the atherogenic process time to accrue damage. Research has not explained fully why women with SLE are unaware of their increased risk for CVD or why awareness does not correspond to risk-educing behaviors. Stage theories of behavior like the Precaution Adoption Process Model (PAPM) propose that health behavior change proceeds through qualitatively different stages, and people at one stage face similar barriers before they can progress to the next. The Common Sense Model (CSM), a self-regulatory model of health behavior, explains the emotional and cognitive processes involved in progression from one stage to the next and the formation of a personal risk/illness representation. Combining the PAPM and CSM helps understand the relationship between risk perception and adoption of risk reducing behaviors. The specific aims of this study were to assess in women with SLE: (1) general knowledge of heart disease compared to women without SLE; (2) awareness of increased CVD risk and CVD risk factors; and (3) personal and healthcare system factors that influence awareness of increased CVD risk and adoption of risk reducing behaviors. Sixty women with SLE, 18 years of age or older, were recruited to participate in this descriptive study. Data included demographic information, self-report questionnaires (perceived CVD risk, CVD risk factors, depression, physical activity), body measures (height, weight, waist circumference, blood pressure), and blood samples for physiologic markers of traditional and novel CVD risk factors (glucose, insulin, lipoprotein lipids, creatinine, C-reactive protein, homocysteine, antiphospholipid antibodies). The Beck Depression Inventory-Primary Care and the Physical Activity Disability Survey were used to determine depression and activity level respectively. General knowledge of heart disease was assessed using the American Heart Association (AHA) National Survey on women's awareness of heart disease. Logistic regression was used to categorize participants into subgroups according to perceived risk and identify important factors that influenced their PAPM stage categorization. Women with SLE in this study were more aware of women's leading cause of death than United States women who responded to the 2006 AHA survey (73% v 57%), but fewer than 25% perceived themselves at increased CVD risk. Age was a significant predictor (p=0.05) for awareness of increased risk; younger age correlated with increased awareness. Most women received information about heart disease from public media. On average, women had 4 CVD risk factors, but they perceived they had only 2. The number of perceived risk factors predicted adoption of risk reducing behaviors (p=0.03). Women in this study with SLE underestimated their CVD risk factors and did not personalize their increased CVD risk. Healthcare providers' identification and discussion of CVD risk factors in women with SLE may enhance their risk awareness and the adoption of risk reducing behaviors. This information may contribute to the development of stage-matched interventions, a potentially more effective and efficient approach than a generic program of risk-reduction, especially in individuals with SLE who face the additional burden of a chronic illness.


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Graduation Date



Dennis, Karen


Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)


College of Nursing



Degree Program









Release Date

March 2010

Length of Campus-only Access


Access Status

Doctoral Dissertation (Open Access)

Included in

Nursing Commons