Clinical judgment should drive referrals for diet and exercise behavioral counseling for adults with a low risk for cardiovascular disease (CVD), according to a new recommendation statement from the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force published online July 11 in JAMA.

“Persons who are interested and ready to make behavioral changes may be most likely to benefit from behavioral counseling,” according to the statement (JAMA 2017 Jul 11;318:167-74. doi: 10.1001/jama.2017.7171).

The recommendation is a C, which means that clinicians should consider patient preferences and clinical judgment, wrote David C. Grossman, MD , of Kaiser Permanente Washington Health Research Institute, Seattle, and his colleagues.

To assess the value of behavioral counseling in adults at low risk for cardiovascular disease, the USPSTF reviewed 88 trials including more than 120 interventions related to a healthful diet, physical activity, or both. None of the trials included in the review noted specific adverse events related to counseling.

Although the evidence was insufficient to support benefits from behavioral counseling for reducing death or CVD rates, the data showed that behavioral counseling was associated with improved systolic and diastolic blood pressure levels, cholesterol, body mass index, and waist circumference over 6-12 months.

In data from 34 trials, behavior counseling resulted in significant changes to several CVD risk factors, with average improvements of –1.26 mm Hg for systolic blood pressure, –0.49 mm Hg for diastolic blood pressure, –2.85 mg/dL for total cholesterol, –0.41 kg/m2 for body mass index, –1.04 kg for weight, and –0.19 cm for waist circumference.

The current recommendation updates the 2012 recommendations that primary care clinicians “selectively provide or refer patients who do not have hypertension, dyslipidemia, diabetes, or CVD to behavioral counseling to promote a healthful diet and physical activity rather than incorporating counseling into the routine care of adults.”

Separate USPSTF recommendations focus on behavioral counseling in adults with risk factors including obesity, abnormal blood glucose levels, diabetes, or CVD, therefore, the current recommendation “focuses on persons without these risk factors,” the researchers noted.

In the evidence report accompanying the recommendations, Carrie D. Patnode, PhD , of Kaiser Permanente in Portland, Ore., and her colleagues concluded that higher-intensity interventions may promote greater improvements in health outcomes, but that “there is very limited evidence on longer-term intermediate and health outcomes or on harmful effects of these interventions” (JAMA 2017;318:175-93. doi: 10.1001/jama.2017.3303).

The researchers had no financial conflicts to disclose.


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