Assessing (calculating) your cardiovascular health risk
A ‘risk factor calculator’ is commonly used which can assess your cardiovascular health risk. A score is calculated which takes into account all your risk factors such as age, sex, smoking status, blood pressure, cholesterol level, etc. The calculator has been devised after a lot of research that monitored thousands of people over a number of years. The score gives a fairly accurate indication of your risk of developing a cardiovascular disease over the next 10 years.
Who should have their cardiovascular health risk assessed?
Current UK guidelines advise that the following people should be assessed to find their cardiovascular health risk:
If you already have a cardiovascular disease or diabetes then your risk does not need to be assessed. This is because you are already known to be in the high-risk group.
What does the assessment involve?
A doctor or nurse will:
A score is calculated based on these factors plus your age and your sex. An adjustment to the score is made for certain other factors such as strong family history and ethnic origin. The calculators are evolving all the time. The one which has been used for a long time is called Framingham. However, many health professionals are moving over to QRISK®2 which is more accurate and takes into account many other factors, such as whether you have a condition called atrial fibrillation, or kidney disease. The QRISK®2 calculator can be found online at www.qrisk.org
What does the assessment score mean?
You are given a score as a % chance. So, for example, if your score is 30% this means that you have a 30% chance of developing a cardiovascular disease within the next 10 years. This is the same as saying a 30 in 100 chance (or a 3 in 10 chance). In other words, in this example, 3 in 10 people with the same score that you have will develop a cardiovascular disease within the next 10 years. Note: the score cannot say if you will be one of the three. It cannot predict what will happen to each individual person. It just gives you the odds. You are said to have a:
Who should be treated to reduce their cardiovascular health risk?
Treatment to reduce the risk of developing a cardiovascular disease is usually offered to people with a high risk. That is:
What treatments are available to reduce the risk?
If you are at high risk
If you are at high risk of developing a cardiovascular disease then drug treatment is usually advised along with advice to tackle any lifestyle issues. This usually means:
What if I am at moderate or low risk?
If you are not in the high-risk category, it does not mean you have no risk – just a lesser risk. Drug treatment is not usually prescribed. However, you may be able to reduce whatever risk you do have even further by any relevant changes in lifestyle. Some people with a moderate risk buy a low-dose statin drug from a pharmacy to lower their cholesterol level.