Perception of cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk factors may be correlated to actual CVD risk factors throughout the lifespan. PURPOSE: The purpose of this study was to compare perceived and actual CVD risk factors in an undergraduate student population. METHODS: Seventy-five undergraduate male (n = 30) and female (n = 45) students (20 ± 1.0 years old; 22.4 ± 4.5 kg/m2) from Spokane, Washington participated in the present study. Perceived CVD risk factors were determined by a self-report survey taken by the participants. Participants' blood pressure (BP), waist circumference (WC), and body mass index (BMI) were recorded, which determined the presence of actual CVD risk factors, based upon ACSM guidelines. Overall CVD risk was then determined by the Framingham 30-year risk calculator, using the participants’ age, sex, systolic BP, smoking habits, presence of BP treatment, BMI, and presence of diabetes. A Related-Samples McNemar Test (significance level p ≤ 0.05) was used to compare perceived and actual CVD risk factors. RESULTS: Significant differences were observed between perceived and actual overall CVD risk (p = 0.004), BP risk (p = 0.012), and BP health (p = 0.000). No significant differences were observed between perceived and actual BMI risk (p = 0.180), BMI health (p = 0.508), WC risk (p = 1.000), and WC health (p = 0.289). CONCLUSION: The differences between perceived and actual overall CVD risk, BP risk, and BP health suggested that the sample population could have underestimated their level of risk. A lack of knowledge of CVD risk, BP risk, and BP health and/or ignorance of the participants’ own state of health could have contributed to statistical differences observed for these variables. Primary explanations for the lack of significant differences for the BMI and WC variables may be include that the sample population included many Health Sciences majors and that anthropometrically derived risk factors may be more accurately perceived than others. The media has been a constant reminder of what a “healthy” body figure “should” look like, and possibly influenced the participants’ perception of BMI and WC. Unlike BP, participants could have visually estimated their BMI and WC, which may have allowed them to answer the BMI and WC survey questions with greater confidence and accuracy. Future research should increase the number of dependent variables, schedule two testing sessions per participant to mitigate the effects of confounding variables, and utilize random sampling to gain a more representative sample.

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