Simple, common BMI data stored in e-records can identify patients with heart disease risk

By Sharyn Alden

Electronic medical records provide new opportunities to monitor and improve patients’ health. New research released online in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine shows that body mass index (BMI) data, commonly available in electronic medical records, can accurately identify adults between 30 and 74 years-old at risk for cardiovascular (heart) disease, the leading cause of death in the U.S.

Previously, calculating relied on access to information on and blood pressure levels, tobacco use, and the presence of diabetes. These risk factors are frequently associated with a famous long-term study of heart disease known as the “Framingham” study.

This is the first study to compare using electronic BMI data only or using cholesterol screening results  to identify patients in a large health care system that were at moderate and high risk for heart disease.

Researchers looked at electronic health data for 122,270 patients without heart disease. Risk scores calculated using only BMI data were similar to patients with lab-based cholesterol data for nearly 80 percent of the patients. In low risk patients, BMI correctly classified risk 99 percent of the time.

“BMI can predict whether a person is likely to be categorized as moderate or high risk for cardiovascular disease and possibly need medications to lower cholesterol,” said Beverly B. Green, M.D., lead author of the Group Health Research Institute at the University of Washington in Seattle.

Green points out not every adult who is at risk for heart disease has had a cholesterol test.  “Lack of laboratory data for cholesterol is the most common reason for not being able to calculate cardiovascular disease risk,” she said.  In our research about 40 percent of adults 30-74 did not have a cholesterol test, however, most people had a BMI in their electronic records and this could be used instead of cholesterol to calculate CVD risk.”

are important in the assessment of risk factors because doctors can show the patient their trends to motivate them to start making lifestyle changes,” commented Niece Goldberg, M.D., cardiologist and director of the Joan Tisch Center for Women’s Health at New York University Medical Center.

Green added, “By using electronic health records, we can learn a lot about what really makes a difference in the lives and health of individual patients. A patient might ask if they really need a screening test or treatment based on their risk factors. Electronic can help identify who may really benefit from getting a lab or screening test or treatment as well as helping doctors better care for their entire patient population.”

More information: Green, B. B., et al. (2012). Using Body Mass Index Data in the Electronic Health Record to Calculate Cardiovascular Risk. American Journal of Preventive Medicine, In Press.

Related Stories

Heart healthy choices early on pay off later

Mar 02, 2012

(Medical Xpress) -- Maintaining a healthy lifestyle from young adulthood into your 40s is strongly associated with low cardiovascular disease risk in middle age, according to a new Northwestern Medicine study.

Arthritis sufferers at increased risk of heart disease

Aug 15, 2011

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) sufferers are at an increased risk of dying due to cardiovascular disease. A new five year study published in BioMed Central's open access journal Arthritis Research & Therapy showed that the ri ...

Recommended for you

Blending faith and science to combat obesity

26 minutes ago

Science and religion may seem like uneasy partners at times, but when it comes to promoting healthy lifestyles, one UConn Health researcher has shown they can be an effective combination.

Research project puts stroke patients back on their feet

33 minutes ago

Finding the will to exercise routinely can be challenging enough for most people, but a stroke presents even more obstacles. Yet aerobic exercise may be crucial for recovery and reducing the risk of another ...

Air quality and unconventional oil and gas sites

3 hours ago

Research suggesting air pollutants released by unconventional oil and gas production are well over recommended levels in the US is published today in the open access journal Environmental Health. High levels of benzene, hydrog ...

FDA cautions against 'undeclared' food allergens

15 hours ago

(HealthDay)—Some food labels may not reliably list all possible food allergens, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. The agency added that these "undeclared allergens" are the leading cause ...

User comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.