JUL 24, 2018 12:45 PM PDT

The Heart Disease Health Calculator

WRITTEN BY: Caitlin Williams

Cardiovascular disease, or heart disease, describes a range of conditions that affect your heart. Cardiovascular disease generally involves narrowed or blocked blood vessels that can lead to heart failure, arrhythmia, heart valve problems, heart attack or stroke. In the United States alone over 610,000 people die of heart disease and it is the leading cause of death for both men and women. A research group from the University of Ottawa recently developed a health calculator to help determine the risk of heart disease in an individual and in a population. 

Large population health surveys have the potential to support personalized medicine, with the potential to assess disease risk, based on complex risk-prediction algorithms and more predictors.  Compared to clinical data and epidemiology studies, large population healthy surveys emphasize sociodemographic profiles and health behaviors, are better calibrated and generalizable, and can more easily be used for population planning. These surveys allow for estimation of the future incidence of disease events which can predict the future burden of health behaviors such as smoking, physical activity, and diet. The research group developed a cardiovascular disease risk algorithm, referred to as the Cardiovascular Disease Population Risk Tool (CVDPoRT), using large population health surveys.

Using routinely collected data on 104,2918 Ontario residents from Canadian Community Health surveys from 2001 to 2007, linked with data from the Institute for Clinical Evaluation Sciences (ICES) on hospitalizations and deaths, they developed the Cardiovascular Disease Population Risk Tool. Unlike other tools, this calculator considers many favors such as sociodemographic status, health behaviors, health conditions and environmental factors. Factors can include age, diet, stress, education, high blood pressure, body mass index, sense of belonging, alcohol consumptions, and immigration status among other factors not listed. For individual use, the calculator allows for prediction or hospitalization or death risk from cardiovascular disease over the next five years. For population use, it can predict the number of people who will develop cardiovascular disease and how that risk varies across populations based on things like socioeconomic status. While currently set up for use in Canada, the tool is adaptable to any of the 100 countries around the world that collect health survey data.

The Health Calculator tool considers the full range of predictors and can be completed by individuals without the assistance of a clinician or use of clinical measures such as blood pressure or cholesterol level to help inform medical decisions. "A lot of people are interested in healthy living, but often we don't have that discussion in the doctor's office," says Dr. Manuel, who is also a professor at the University of Ottawa. "Doctors will check your blood pressure and cholesterol levels, but they don't necessarily ask about lifestyle factors that could put you at risk of a heart attack and stroke. We hope this tool can help people -- and their care team -- with better information about healthy living and options for reducing their risk of heart attack and stroke."

To read how the tool was built and validated, read the published study here! To learn more about risk factors for heart disease watch the video below!

CDC, Mayo Clinic

About the Author
  • Caitlin holds a doctorate degree in Microbiology from the University of Georgia where she studied Mycoplasma pneumoniae and its glycan receptors. She received her Bachelor's in Biology from Virginia Tech (GO HOKIES!). She has a passion for science communication and STEM education with a goal to improve science literacy. She enjoys topics related to human health, with a particular soft spot for pathogens.
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