Health literacy is the degree to which individuals are able to access and process basic health information and services and thereby participate in health-related decisions.  The objectives of this American Heart Association (AHA) scientific statement are

  • to summarize the relevance of health literacy to cardiovascular health
  • to present the adverse associations of health literacy with cardiovascular risk factors, conditions, and treatments
  • to suggest strategies that address barriers imposed by limited health literacy on the management and prevention of cardiovascular disease
  • to demonstrate the contributions of health literacy to health disparities, given its association with social determinants of health
  • to propose future directions for how health literacy can be integrated into the American Heart Association’s mandate to advance cardiovascular treatment and research, thereby improving patient care and public health.

Inadequate health literacy is a barrier to the AHA meeting its 2020 Impact Goals, and this statement articulates the rationale to anticipate and address the adverse cardiovascular effects associated with health literacy.