People who know their 'heart age' make greater improvements to their heart health

February 5, 2014

New research, published today in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology, suggests that talking to patients about their heart health using the "Heart Age" concept, a simple way of estimating and expressing cardiovascular risk, promotes behavioral changes that result in a reduction in their CVD risk, leading to improved health outcomes.

Risk scores for diseases such as CVD are usually presented as the percent chance of contracting the disease within the next ten years. The Heart Age Calculator, http://www.heartage.me, uses the same well established risk factor data, but expresses an individual's risk score as their estimated Heart Age to make it more personally relevant to the individual.

Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is the world's biggest killer(3), but doctors have long struggled to explain risk factors to patients in a way that encourages them to change their behaviour thus reducing risk. Previous research has shown that Heart Age is more likely to be understood and motivate people to make positive changes than traditional % risk scores, especially those who are at higher levels of modifiable risk(4).

Now, for the first time, researchers have shown that using the Heart Age tool to raise awareness of CVD risk promotes behavioural changes that result in a decrease in CVD risk. Researchers at the University of the Balearic Islands, Spain carried out the study amongst 3,153 patients, who were randomly assigned to one of three groups before completing an annual health assessment. One group was then presented with their CVD risk expressed as a % risk, while another received the same information expressed as their estimated Heart Age. A third control group received general guidance on healthy living only. Follow up measurements were recorded a year later during the subsequent annual health assessment.

Dr Pedro Tauler, researcher belonging to the Research Group on Evidence, Lifestyles and Health from the University of the Balearic Islands, commented "We know that traditional risks scores can be confusing. We wanted to test whether using the Heart Age Calculator to talk to patients about their CVD risk would have an effect on motivating them to adopt healthier lifestyles and, in turn, reduce their risk of developing CVD."

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.

Dr Pedro Tauler said: "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 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."

Explore further: Hispanic women are less aware of weight and heart disease risk

More information: References

1 "Effectiveness of the Heart Age tool for improving modifiable cardiovascular risk factors in a Southern European population: a randomized trial," by Angel A Lopez-Gonzalez, Antoni Aguilo, Margalida Frontera, Miquel Bennasar-Veny, Irene Campos, Teofila Vicente-Herrero, Matıas Tomas-Salva,Joan De Pedro-Gomez and Pedro Tauler (DOI: 10.1177/2047487313518479) and appears in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology.

2 www.heartage.me

3 World Health Organization. (2011) Global status report on noncommunicable diseases 2010. Geneva, Available at www.who.int

4 Anastasia Soureti, Robert Hurling, Peter Murray, Willem van Mechelen and Mark Cobain. (2010) Evaluation of a cardiovascular disease risk assessment tool for the promotion of healthier lifestyles. European Journal of Cardiovascular Prevention and Rehabilitation 17(5):519-23

Related Stories

Hispanic women are less aware of weight and heart disease risk

January 2, 2014
Minority women tend to be less aware of the increased risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD) they face by being overweight or obese. The results of a study that compared Hispanic and non-Hispanic white women based on their ...

Healthy living adds 14 years to your life

November 5, 2012
If you have optimal heart health in middle age, you may live up to 14 years longer, free of cardiovascular disease, than your peers who have two or more cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk factors, according to a new Northwestern ...

Greater density of coronary artery calcium associated with lower risk of CHD, CVD

November 18, 2013
Michael H. Criqui, M.D., M.P.H., of the University of California, San Diego, and colleagues determined the independent associations of coronary artery calcium (CAC) volume and CAC density with cardiovascular disease events. ...

Resting heart rate predicts overall, cardiovascular mortality

August 21, 2012
(HealthDay) -- High resting heart rates seem to be predictive of increased risk for overall and cardiovascular disease (CVD) mortality and shorter survival times, according to a study published in the Aug. 15 issue of The ...

Greater dietary fiber intake associated with lower risk of heart disease

December 19, 2013
Greater dietary fibre intake is associated with a lower risk of both cardiovascular disease and coronary heart disease, a paper published today in BMJ suggests.

Study demonstrates need to change scoring system for heart disease

January 13, 2014
A study led by researchers at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine shows that one of the most widely used systems for predicting risk of adverse heart events should be re-evaluated. A surprise finding ...

Recommended for you

Researchers investigate the potential of spider silk protein for engineering artificial heart

August 18, 2017
Ever more people are suffering from cardiac insufficiency, despite significant advances in preventing and minimising damage to the heart. The main cause of reduced cardiac functionality lies in the irreversible loss of cardiac ...

Lasers used to detect risk of heart attack and stroke

August 18, 2017
Patients at risk of heart attacks and strokes may be spotted earlier thanks to a diagnosis tool that uses near-infrared light to identify high-risk arterial plaques, according to research carried out at WMG, University of ...

Cholesterol crystals are sure sign a heart attack may loom

August 17, 2017
A new Michigan State University study on 240 emergency room patients shows just how much of a role a person's cholesterol plays, when in a crystallized state, during a heart attack.

How Gata4 helps mend a broken heart

August 15, 2017
During a heart attack, blood stops flowing into the heart; starved for oxygen, part of the heart muscle dies. The heart muscle does not regenerate; instead it replaces dead tissue with scars made of cells called fibroblasts ...

Injectable tissue patch could help repair damaged organs

August 14, 2017
A team of U of T Engineering researchers is mending broken hearts with an expanding tissue bandage a little smaller than a postage stamp.

'Fat but fit' are at increased risk of heart disease

August 14, 2017
Carrying extra weight could raise your risk of heart attack by more than a quarter, even if you are otherwise healthy.

0 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.