In a large clinical trial, a new cardiovascular disease risk score has been found to effectively predict the risk of a heart attack or stroke.
Heart disease caused by atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries) leads to over 23% of fatalities in the United States, making it the most frequent cause of death. Plaques made up of substances such as fat and cholesterol can build up in the arteries causing them to narrow and harden. This can block the flow of blood to the heart and brain leading to a cardiovascular event such as a heart attack or stroke.
It is widely recommended that a cardiovascular disease risk score is used to predict the risk of a cardiovascular event so that preventative measures can be put in place to lessen the risk. At present, clinicians use a tool called the Atherosclerotic Cardiovascular Disease Risk Calculator to estimate the ten-year and lifetime risk of a heart attack or stroke. Despite being widely used, it is not always straight forward to complete this cardiovascular disease risk score as it requires a blood sample and laboratory testing. In addition, it does not consider some significant risk factors such as family history or obesity. Taking these factors into account, researchers set out to develop a new and simple cardiovascular disease risk score.
Original research published in the Journal of the American Heart Association describes a new cardiovascular disease risk score that has been developed. Six factors are included in the new risk score; male sex, age, smoking status, diabetes, hypertension and family history of myocardial infarction (heart attack). Researchers looked back at data collected over a ten-year period from more than 9000 individuals who did not have any previous cardiovascular disease. The results were compared from the new cardiovascular disease risk score called EZ-CVD to the current Atherosclerotic Cardiovascular Disease Risk Calculator.
The EZ-CVD risk score was similar at predicting the ten-year risk of a cardiovascular event when compared to the Atherosclerotic Cardiovascular Disease Risk Calculator. The new risk score does not require a physical examination or laboratory data, therefore, it can be completed quickly with just patient-reported information.
Although a large research study, the population of the study was not ethnically diverse and it did not consider factors specific to women. This highlights that further research is required to validate the new cardiovascular disease risk score across a more diverse population. The EZ-CVD risk score has been developed to be widely used rather than gender-specific, which is why it did not focus on sex-specific factors. Further research could focus on, and lead to, a more gender-specific cardiovascular disease risk score.
Early prediction of those at risk of a heart attack or stroke can allow preventative treatments and lifestyle changes to be introduced. Research shows that people with a healthy lifestyle have an 84% reduction in cardiovascular risk. This new, simple cardiovascular disease risk score can be completed in a single trip to a clinician, or even over the telephone. This means that individuals who may benefit from preventative therapy can be identified. By introducing preventative measures early, the morbidity and mortality related to cardiovascular disease can be significantly reduced.
Written by Helen Massy, BSc
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