MONDAY, May 23 (HealthDay News) -- Older doctors are more likely to recommend lifestyle changes for patients with heart disease risk factors, while younger doctors are more likely to prescribe medications, a new study finds.

But despite seeing doctors that prescribed more medications, the patients of younger doctors had no better control of their heart disease risk factors, according to the study by Italian researchers in the June issue of the International Journal of Clinical Practice.

"Although younger doctors prescribed more drugs, this did not result in significantly better control of their patients' major CV [cardiovascular] risk factors, suggesting that other factors have an important role to play in the clinical management of CV risk, including lifestyle changes," Professor Massimo Volpe from the Faculty of Medicine at Sapienza University in Rome said in a journal news release.

Volpe and his colleagues looked at the attitudes and prescribing habits of 1,078 family physicians, cardiologists and diabetes specialists, along with data from nearly 10,000 of their outpatients, whose average age was 67.

The study found that 75 percent of the patients had high blood pressure, making it the most common cardiovascular disease risk factor. That was followed by abnormal lipid levels (cholesterol and/or fat in the blood), which affected 59 percent of patients, and diabetes (37 percent).

Blood pressure drugs were the most commonly prescribed medications -- by 83 percent of doctors younger than 45, 78 percent of doctors aged 46-55, and 80 percent of doctors over 55.

Younger doctors were also more likely to prescribe diabetes drugs, lipid-lowering and anti-platelet agents than older doctors.

Older doctors were most likely to recommend lifestyle changes. For example, doctors over 55 were most likely to tell patients to quit smoking and doctors aged 46 to 55 were most likely to recommend a healthier diet and exercise.

"We believe these findings have important implications for the ongoing professional education of doctors treating patients with CV risk," Volpe added.

More information

The American Heart Association outlines lifestyle changes to boost heart health.