Stimulating health behaviour changes to reduce cardiovascular risk in primary care


Lifestyle importantly contributes to preventable morbidity and mortality. An unhealthy diet, inactive lifestyle, excessive alcohol consumption and/or smoking put individuals at risk of developing diabetes type 2 and/or cardiovascular disease. Health behaviour changes are necessary to lower an individual’s risk of disease, and to lower the associated costs for society. Primary care professionals are in a good position to observe which lifestyle interventions might benefit an individual, but they may not always know how they can stimulate health behaviour change in their patients.

During two annual meetings of the European Primary Care Cardiovascular Society (EPCCS), the evidence-base on the effectiveness of different methods to stimulate health behaviour modifications was reviewed, and lessons on effective strategies were distilled. This document outlines the presented evidence on ingredients of successful behaviour change strategies and motivational interviewing, as well as which CV risk behaviours and clinical outcomes may be improved with various types of strategies. This document aims to provide practical guidance to general practioners (GPs) and other primary care health workers on empowering patients to improve their lifestyle behaviour. During the EPCCS meetings, gaps in the knowledge base were identified, which have been formulated in this document as recommendations for future research. Moreover, the potential contribution or responsibility of GPs to stimulate societal or policy measures is discussed.