The average person is just 4 degrees of separation from heart failure

One in five Americans are able to recognize the symptoms of heart failure, according to a new survey from Abbott—a troublesome finding considering the same research puts the average individual just four degrees of separation from HF.

The survey aimed to debunk a host of myths about heart failure, including the idea that HF is just “another term for heart attack,” that its symptoms are clear and that it can only be diagnosed by a specialist.

Of course, cardiologists aren’t the only physicians trained to recognize the symptoms of CVD, but 45% of Abbott’s 3,000 respondents—representative of the greater U.S. population—said they believed only a cardiologist could diagnose HF. As a result, only 20% of people are likely to talk to their primary care physician about heart failure.

Despite their reluctance to chat with their PCP about symptoms, 65% of individuals in Abbott’s survey said they wished they knew more about heart failure. More than half said they believed the condition could be controlled if identified early, but just 1 in 5 respondents said they would recognize HF symptoms in themselves and only 1 in 3 said they’d know what to do if they suspected they had HF.

“Heart failure personally affects 1 in 10 people,” Abbott’s report reads. “That means the average person is only four degrees of separation away from it. Look around your family, friends and office. Heart failure is all around you.”

Researchers worked out the four degrees of separation statistic by using an equation that determined the average path length (degrees of separation) between two nodes (individuals) in a random network (the greater population). Since the survey found 10% of people are personally affected by HF, and previous research has cemented the fact that the average American knows around 600 people, that works out to roughly four degrees of separation.

Find the full survey results online here.