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Monday, 9 March 2015

When could YOU suffer a heart attack? Take this test to find out...

  • NHS Heart Age Calculator predicts when you'll suffer heart attack or stroke
  • Asks for age, weight and height, whether you smoke and where you live
  • Probes medical history checking for diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, kidney disease and irregular heart beats as well as family history of heart disease
  • Aims to arm people with the knowledge to live healthier lifestyles
  • But critics warn it could push more to take medication to lower their cholesterol, including statins, and suffer unnecessary side effects


  • A new online calculator aims to predict the age at which a person is likely to suffer a heart attack or stroke.

    The tool compares a person's actual age with their heart age, after considering simple lifestyle information, including height and weight.

    While those behind the new test argue it is designed to arm people with the knowledge they need to make changes to improve their lifestyles, critics have questioned how effective it will be.

    GPs will be encouraged to tell patients about the test, to help empower them to live healthier lives.

    But one expert warned the test may scare people into taking medication, including statins, to lower their cholesterol.
    The NHS Heart Age Calculator test predicts a person's heart age as well as the age at which they are likely to suffer a heart attack or stroke
    The NHS Heart Age Calculator test predicts a person's heart age as well as the age at which they are likely to suffer a heart attack or stroke
    As well as predicting how long a person can expect to live before suffering a heart attack or stroke, the calculator offers a free NHS health check, giving advice on how to enjoy a healthier lifestyle 
    As well as predicting how long a person can expect to live before suffering a heart attack or stroke, the calculator offers a free NHS health check, giving advice on how to enjoy a healthier lifestyle 

    The test asks people to enter basic details, including their age, height and weight and postcode.

    Blood pressure, cholesterol level and whether a person has ever received treatment for their blood pressure is also requested.

    Then the test asks a series of questions to build a picture of a person's medical history.

    Whether a person smokes, if they are diabetic, suffering rheumatoid arthritis, chronic kidney failure or atrial fibrillation - an irregular heartbeat - is considered.

    Finally, it asks if a person has a family history of cardiovascular disease in relatives under the age of 60.




    Using the information, the calculator generates a heart age, as well as predicting how long a person can expect to live before they are likely to suffer a heart attack or stroke. 

    In addition, it estimates the risk of a person suffering a heart attack or stroke in the next decade.

    As well as the results, the test provides advice about blood pressure, cholesterol and weight, calculating a person's body mass index to judge if they are a normal weight, overweight or obese.

    It means a woman aged 40, who is of a healthy weight, smokes less than 10 cigarettes a day, has diabetes and has a family history of cardiovascular disease could be warned her heart age is actually that of a 53-year-old.

    She could be warned she is likely to suffer a heart attack or stroke by the age of 71, and given a three per cent chance of it happening in the next decade.

    The test asks people their age, weight and height as well as basic information about their blood pressure, cholesterol and medical history
    The test asks people their age, weight and height as well as basic information about their blood pressure, cholesterol and medical history
    Another woman of the same age, weight and height, but who does not smoke or suffer diabetes and has no family history of heart disease could be told she is likely to live until the age of 81 without suffering the same fate.

    In addition, her percentage risk of a heart attack or stroke would be just 0.9 per cent over the next decade.

    A 55-year-old diabetic man who smokes more than 20 cigarettes a day, and has a family history of heart disease, could be told he risks a heart attack or stroke at the age of 67, and has a 30 per cent chance of it happening within 10 years.

    In contrast, a man of the same age but who does not smoke or have other health problems, could expect to live to 80 years old without any risk of heart problems.

    The test is most accurate if a person can provide their cholesterol and blood pressure readings.

    However, if not, the test uses the national averages to determine risk.

    It is available on the NHS Choices and British Heart Foundation websites, as part of a collaboration between Public Health England and the charity.  

    Professor Kevin Fenton, director of health and wellbeing at Public Health England, said: 'Too many people are dying prematurely from preventable conditions and there is clear evidence that factors like smoking and high blood pressure play a major role in this.

    'The heart age tool shows that it is never too late to make healthy lifestyle changes, giving people a chance to see the direct impact these changes can have on their heart's health.'

    Simon Gillespie, chief executive of the British Heart Foundation, said: 'Knowing your risk of developing heart and circulatory disease is crucial to taking control of your health. 
    It means a woman aged 40, who is of a healthy weight, smokes less than 10 cigarettes a day, has diabetes and has a family history of cardiovascular disease could be warned her heart age is actually that of a 53-year-old, and that she could expect to suffer a heart attack or stroke at the age of 71
    It means a woman aged 40, who is of a healthy weight, smokes less than 10 cigarettes a day, has diabetes and has a family history of cardiovascular disease could be warned her heart age is actually that of a 53-year-old, and that she could expect to suffer a heart attack or stroke at the age of 71
    Another woman of the same age, weight and height, but who does not smoke or suffer diabetes and has no family history could be told she is likely to live until the age of 81 without suffering the same fate
    Another woman of the same age, weight and height, but who does not smoke or suffer diabetes and has no family history could be told she is likely to live until the age of 81 without suffering the same fate

    'Armed with this knowledge you can start to make lifestyle changes to help protect yourself against heart attacks and strokes.' 

    But other experts have urged caution, warning it could push more people to take statins and other medication, putting people at risk of side-effects. 

    HEART DISEASE KILLS MORE PEOPLE THAN ANY OTHER ILLNESS 

    Cardiovascular disease kills more people across the world than any other illness.
    The World Health Organisation estimate 17.5 million people were killed by cardiovascular disease - of the heart and circulatory system - in 2012.
    That is three deaths in every 10.
    Of those, 7.4 million died of coronary heart disease, and another 6.7 million died from stroke.
    In the UK cardiovascular disease (CVD) is responsible for more than a quarter of all deaths, or around 73,000 deaths each year - an average of 200 people each day or one every seven minutes.
    The British Heart Foundation estimates around seven million people are living with CVD in the UK. 
    The total cost of premature death, lost productivity, hospital treatment and prescriptions is estimated at £19 billion every year. 
    Dr Assem Malhotra, honorary consultant cardiologist, at Frimley Park Hospital, told the Telegraph he is concerned the test does not account for basic lifestyle factors, including exercise levels.

    He said: 'It is important to help identify those at risk of heart disease, but I really hope this has been properly evaluated; we don't want to make the same mistakes we have seen in the US, where calculators enormously exaggerated the risks. 

    'It is a pretty crude evaluation to only use weight as a proxy for lifestyle.'

    As well as estimating heart age and a person's risk of heart attack and stroke, the free NHS Health Check that accompanies it, gives people an opportunity to take action to improve their lifestyle.

    It offers advice about how to develop serious but preventable conditions including heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, kidney disease and some types of dementia. 
    In 2013, more than 18,000 people died prematurely from coronary heart disease.     

    Dawn Bail from Bury, had her NHS Health Check in 2013 and was shocked by the results. 

    She said; 'I knew I wasn't the healthiest person but being told I was obese and at risk of serious health problems was a real wake-up call. 

    'Since then I have completely changed both mine and my husband's lifestyles, going to the gym regularly and having homemade meals.

    'In fact I was actually looking forward to my last check which showed my BMI to be normal and a fantastic low risk of cardiovascular disease.' 


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