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New formulas for calculating risk of heart disease


In the world of health professionals, new formulas will increase the effectiveness of risk classification and subsequently drive down health care costs.  Below are the main points, feel free to check the links for more information. 

A snapshot of cardiovascular risk

            The American Heart Association and American College of Cardiology have issued a new formula for calculating who is the most at risk for a heart attack or stroke.  These guidelines have just been issued in mid-November of last year.  Why does this matter?  These guidelines call for providers and health care systems to adopt the new equations.  These equations will help doctors to better know who actually needs medication which could potentially save lives.

There are updated formulas for non-Hispanic white men and women but more revolutionary, is the first ever equations uniquely for African American men.  These equations were created after following a group of about 25,000 people.  African American men are at greater risk than Caucasian men for heart disease, the implications of this are missing a diagnosis by using the old equations, which may result in a preventable death.

Donald Lloyd-Jones, M.D. said that with the old equations, people were not able to get their risk for stroke calculated, only heart disease.  Now though, thanks to these new models, stroke risk can also be calculated.  He recommends getting your 10 year risk factor calculated every 4 to 6 years.  All that is required is a fasting blood draw, some basic information such as race, gender, and age, and some resting vitals.  Basically what you would expect on a routine doctor’s visit.  If a patient knows their stroke risk, this may be enough of an eye opener to get them to make a change that could save their life.

Another interesting change that has been made, is the creation of a second formula for individuals age 20 to 59.  A 10 year risk assessment tends to incorrectly predict the risk for younger persons, this is called reduced testing specificity.  This separate formula will reduce health care costs by eliminating false positives (people who don’t have heart disease but test like one) which would result in more expensive testing and wasted time. Around 525,000 Americans have a first heart attack every year, many first heart attacks are fatal.  Having more accurate formulas for young people increases the accuracy of assessing their risk, to help them avoid a first heart attack.


News Reference:  African-Americans can receive individualized snapshot of cardiovascular risk November 12, 2013.

Goff, David C. Jr. et all.  (Nov. 2013). Guideline on the Assessment of Cardiovascular Risk.  American Heart Association. 0009-7322. Retrieved from

American Heart Association.  (Jan. 2014).  African-Americans can receive individualized snapshot of cardiovascular risk.  American Heart Association.  Retrieved from


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