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New Tool can Calculate Heart Disease Risk

Update Date: Nov 14, 2014 03:09 PM EST
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A team from the Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) has created a calculator that can assess people's 20-year risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD). The tool factors in people's lifestyle and eating habits. The website also offers advice about what people can do to improve their heart health.

"Currently recommended risk models for CVD are harder for an individual to calculate on their own because they include clinical risk factors such as elevated cholesterol and blood pressure. These risk scores, which are mostly used in doctors' offices, often underestimate the burden of CVD among middle-aged adults, and women in particular," said Stephanie Chiuve, a research associate in the Department of Nutrition at HSPH and assistant professor in medicine at Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women's Hospital.

The calculator was based on the medical records of 61,025 women from the Nurses' Health study and 34,478 men from the Health Professionals Follow-up Study. The participants did not suffer from any chronic illnesses in 1986 and were tracked for up to 24 years. During this time period, there were 3,775 cases and 3,506 cases of CVD diagnosed in women and men, respectively. CVD included nonfatal myocardial infarction (heart attack), fatal coronary heart disease and ischemic stroke.

From this data, the team identified the nine most important diet and lifestyle variables that contributed to CVD risk. The tool then asks people a series of questions and assesses their risk on three levels, which are low, moderate or high. Based on the risk score, the tool generates a list of tips on how to improve heart health.

"The Healthy Heart Score is all about modifiable lifestyle risks, which may increase awareness of CVD prevention through lifestyle interventions earlier in life, prior to the development of clinical risk factors," Chiuve said according to the press release.

"This tool represents the first time that data from large-scale, well-conducted studies were used to develop an easy-to-use CVD prevention tool," added Eric Rimm, professor of epidemiology and nutrition at HSPH and senior author of the study.

The online page is here: http://www.healthyheartscore.com. The research was published in the Journal of the American Heart Association.

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