London, Feb 6 IANS | 11 months ago

You are more likely to adopt healthy lifestyle if you know your 'Heart Age' rather than just knowing the "chances" of your developing a cardiovascular disease, claims a study.

Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is the world's biggest killer, but doctors have long struggled to explain risk factors to patients in a way that encourages them to change their behaviour -- thus reducing risk.

Risk scores for diseases such as CVD are usually presented as a "percent chance" of contracting the disease within the next 10 years.

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 chances of contracting CVD expressed as a "percentage risk", while another received the same information expressed as their estimated "Heart Age".

A third control group only received general guidance on healthy living. Follow-up measurements were recorded a year later during the subsequent annual health assessment.

Patients who were told their Heart Age were far more likely to take action to live healthier lifestyles, such as quitting smoking.

"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," said Pedro Tauler, the lead author of the study.

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.

Quitting rate for smokers was four times greater in the Heart Age group compared to those who received the traditional percentage risk scores.

"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," said Tauler.

(Posted on 06-02-2014)

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