If you’re wondering how likely you are to have a heart attack in the next 20 years, a new calculator can do the math for you.
Other cardiovascular risk calculators require that you enter information not everyone knows offhand. The new Healthy Heart Score, developed by researchers at Harvard School of Public Health, is based on day-to-day behaviors everyone is familiar with.
“Currently recommended risk models for CVD [cardiovascular disease] are harder for an individual to [use] on their own because they include clinical risk factors such as elevated cholesterol and blood pressure,” Harvard researcher Stephanie Chiuve said in a news release. “These risk scores, which are mostly used in doctors’ offices, often underestimate the burden of CVD among middle-aged adults, and women in particular.”
The Healthy Heart Score gives you a picture of your risk for heart problems and the areas where lifestyle changes will bring the most improvement.
The online calculator computes risk based on data from almost 100,000 people involved in large-scale, long-term, health studies over the last few decades linking current and past lifestyle factors to future heart risk.
“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,” said study author Eric Rimm.
Measures of nine variables that affect a person's chances of developing heart disease are used to establish a person's overall risk. The variables include smoking, weight, exercise, alcohol use, diet, sugary beverage intake, and how often red and processed meats are eaten.
The program asks you to answer questions such as whether you are a current or former smoker, how many servings of fruits and vegetables you eat each day on average, and how often you engage in various intensities of exercise. Based on your answers, the calculator gives you your “Healthy Heart Score.” It can be low, moderate, or high.
So give it a try. You may be happy with your score — and if you’re not, remember this: The vast majority of heart disease is preventable. Heart risk comes overwhelmingly from those nine important lifestyle factors mentioned above. So even if your score is not what you’d like, changing your lifestyle in some very simple ways can change your risk.
The use of the calculator is free. You can find it here: https://healthyheartscore.sph.harvard.edu.
The accompanying study is published in Journal of the American Heart Association.