The number of tools to keep track of and manage one’s health care keeps growing. A new British online tool helps users calculate their cardiovascular health and find their “true” heart age.
With cardiovascular disease as a major cause of death, doctors are increasingly looking for ways to really determine heart health early on. New guidelines in the United Kingdom from the Joint British Societies for the Prevention of Cardiovascular Disease (JBS) ask doctors to look at the person’s entire lifetime when evaluating current heart health. Looking beyond biological age takes into consideration lifestyle decisions, such as diet and smoking, and how the heart is actually aging. It helps physicians determine who is really in jeopardy of problems down the road and interventions that would help.
To study true heart age and risk for problems, the JBS developed the JBS3 Risk Calculator. It shows, for example, that a 35-year-old female who has high blood pressure, elevated cholesterol, smokes and has a family history of cardiovascular problems has a heart with a true age of 47. Based on current health assessment methodology, she would probably live to the age of 71 without suffering a heart attack or stroke. If she worked to lower her cholesterol and blood pressure, as well as stopped smoking, her heart age would drop to 30 and she could expect to live to 85 without a stroke or heart attack.
The calculator is designed to empower patients and see what factors reduce or increase risk of problems down the road. The calculator was designed primarily for use by doctors and health care practitioners. The JBS cautions patients to not use the calculator to draw their own conclusions without professional medical advice. However, the tool is fairly user-friendly. Although, warning to Americans, weight is measured in kilograms. However there is a convenient pounds to kilograms translator below where the number gets entered.
Users enter typical data – age, gender, ethnicity, height and weight. Then add in their cholesterol and blood pressure numbers. There are a series of questions to answer about healthy history and risk factors. The heart age is calculated, but users can play with numbers to see what a change in cholesterol or other factors will do. There is another screen that predicts the age the user can expect to reach without suggesting a cardiovascular event. Additional screens show comparisons and possible inventions, with their impact.
The tool is part of a major shift in how doctors think about disease. Prevention is more effective and more cost-effective than taking a statin prescription, according to John Deanfeld, director of Cardiovascular Prevention at University College London Partners. They have studied the value of lifestyle changes over time, which cannot be accomplished with short-term studies or on patients presenting themselves with problems in later years. He points out that starting to care for a heart at 30 can negate the need for a statin later on, which is the desired outcome.
The Joint British Societies for the Prevention of Cardiovascular Disease includes the British Cardiovascular society, the British Hypertension Society and several other healthcare organizations. Their new heart health calculator tool is available online at the JBS site.
By Dyanne Weiss