Informing people about their 'heart age' lowers cardiovascular disease risk
Researchers have shown for the first time that using the Heart Age Calculator to raise awareness of Cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk promotes behavioural changes that helps lower disease risk.
Previous research has shown that Heart Age is more likely to be understood and motivate people to make positive changes than traditional percentage risk scores, especially those who are at higher levels of modifiable 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 percentage 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.
"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," Dr Pedro Tauler, researcher belonging to the Research Group on Evidence, Lifestyles and Health from the University of the Balearic Islands, said.
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.
(Posted on 06-02-2014)