“Heart Age” tool raises awareness promotes behavioral changes resulting in lower CVD risk
The cardiovascular disease (CVD) epidemic is a world-wide public health challenge. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that 80% of CVD-related premature deaths could be avoided if primary CVD causative factors (smoking, dyslipidaemia, hypertension, diabetes, and obesity) were reduced through adoption of a healthier diet, exercising and smoking habit cessation.
Studies have shown that patients considering themselves to be at higher risk of suffering a stroke are more likely to successfully participate in stroke prevention.
Researchers at the University of the Balearic Islands, Spain, tested whether communicating cardiovascular diseases (CVD) risk using a novel risk assessment tool (Heart Age) will be able to motivate a population to adopt healthier lifestyles and improve CVD risk profile over the use of a traditional percentage-based tool.
This study consisted of 3,135 patients were randomly assigned to one of three study groups before completing an annual health assessment. The groups were the control group; patients were given the conventional medical advice as customary in the annual health checks, including general guidelines on healthy lifestyle. The FR group (Framingham REGICOR); patients were scored for their 10-year CVD risk according to the Framingham REGICOR model calibrated for the Spanish population and their risk value was communicated and explained to them, together with the conventional medical advice as in the control group. The third group was the HA group; ‘heart age’ was calculated using the Heart Age calculator. Participants were informed of their heart age value and its meaning was explained to them. They were also provided with the customary medical advice as in the control and FR groups.
The results showed that patients who had been told their CVD risk (both as a percentage or Heart Age) demonstrated significant decreases in their risk scores compared to the control group, with improvements being greatest in the Heart Age group. Furthermore, patients who were told their Heart Age were far more likely to take action to live healthier lifestyles, such as quitting smoking. Quitting rate for smokers was four times greater in the Heart Age group compared to those who received the traditional percentage risk scores.
The authors highlight that the significant improvement in CVD risk seen in this study in the Heart Age group was reached with no intervention other than informing participants of their Heart Age.
In their conclusion the researchers write “Informing patients about their CVD risk expressed as the new Heart Age tool results in a reduction in their CVD risk higher than the one observed when the Framingham REGICOR risk score was used.”
Dr. Pedro Tauler, researcher belonging to the Research Group on Evidence, Lifestyles and Health from the University of the Balearic Islands commented “This would suggest that the mere fact of presenting the patients with information that is easy to understand has a positive effect in engaging them to take preventive action. Heart Age is a cost- and time-effective strategy to motivate patients to adopt a healthier lifestyle that results in a reduction in their CVD risk. The simplicity of the tool and the fact that it is easy to understand are core to its effectiveness."
This study appears in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology.
The “heart age” calculator can be found online at http://www.heartage.me/#/