Online tool predicts heart risk in young adults

(Reuters Health) – An online calculator may help young people predict their risk of developing heart disease in middle age – in time to make lifestyle changes to minimize their odds of a heart attack or stroke, a U.S. study suggests.

For the study, researchers examined the accuracy of results from the free web-based Healthy Heart Tool (here). The online survey examines nine lifestyle factors that can influence the risk of heart disease: smoking, weight, exercise, and consumption of alcohol, fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, sugary drinks, and red and processed meat.

It worked “moderately well” at predicting heart disease risk in a group of almost 5,000 adults who were followed for more than two decades, starting in their mid-twenties, researchers report in JAMA Internal Medicine.

“It is not surprising that the factors in the Healthy Heart Score – diet, exercise, smoking, alcohol and body mass index – predict heart disease in the future,” said lead study author Dr. Holly Gooding of Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston.

“What is surprising is how well those lifestyle factors measured before the age of 30 years can predict the risk of heart disease, even in young adults without other risk factors for heart disease like hypertension, high cholesterol and diabetes,” Gooding said by email.

Researchers tested the tool using 25 years of data collected from the Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults (CARDIA) study.

Participants were 25 years old on average when they joined the study. Of the 4893 participants, 427, or about 9 percent, had at least one clinical risk factor for heart disease such as high blood pressure, elevated cholesterol or diabetes.

Half of the individuals in the study were tracked for nearly three decades.

During the study, 64 women had a total of 69 heart disease-related events such as strokes or heart attacks, the study found. This translates into an annual risk of 0.9 events for…

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