Automatic versus paper-based heart attack risk calculators
Click here to calculate your 10-year risk of a heart attack, using the Framingham Coronary Disease Risk Prediction Algorithms.Your results will include comments on each of your risk factors, your risk category and your individual LDL goal. These are all according to the recent recommendations submitted by the National Cholesterol Education Program.
To obtain accurate predictions, you should have your recent LDL cholesterol and HDL cholesterol measurements, as well as your systolic and diastolic blood pressure.
You can also calculate your 10-year risk of a heart attack by downloading and completing the Framingham Coronary Risk Prediction Score Sheets .
How does heart attack risk calculation work?
During many studies conducted in the last half-century, physicians have determined the major risk factors contributing to atherosclerosis or hardening of the arteries which leads to coronary heart disease (CHD) and myocardial infarction (heart attack). The most well-known of these studies is the Framingham Heart Study.
In this large study, which began in 1948 and is still continuing, more than 5000 inhabitants from the town of Framingham, Massachusetts agreed to undergo an extensive medical check and answer a detailed list of questions concerning their lifestyle every 2 years. In 1971, a second generation of participants was enrolled.
After analyzing this huge set of data, researchers were able to assign a number or "point scores" to each risk factor. These numbers reflect the extent this factor contributes to the possibility of suffering a heart attack. For example, smokers must add 2 risk points, males with diabetes must add another 2, and women with diabetes must add another 4 points because the effect of diabetes on the heart is different in men and women. Once you are done, add up your points and find your 10-year risk of heart attack in the table.
The 3 "Official" Risk Calculators
Confusingly, two versions of the Framingham Risk Calculator exist, one that takes into account your total cholesterol level?and one that uses LDL cholesterol. Both are available in a version for men and a version for women since certain risk factors such as diabetes have different effects in men and women. (see above) You can download all 4 versions. Our risk calculator uses the version with LDL cholesterol.
The third "official" risk calculator was developed by a group of German researchers. It is based on the PROCAM (Prospective Cardiovascular Muenster) Study, which began in 1978 and follows more than 30,000 individuals in and around the German city of Muenster. This study is also available in a version for men and women. Risk scores, especially low ones, calculated with Framingham and PROCAM can differ.
How the calculators differ from each other and their limitations
- The risk values calculated with the above methods must only be considered general indicators of heart health, rather than absolute tools for predicting a heart attack.
- The risks calculated are average values that reflect heart disease rates detected in the underlying studies. For example, Framingham and especially PROCAM included mainly Caucasians, so the results may not be directly transferrable to African-American or Hispanic individuals.
- Certain risk factors may not yet be adequately included in the calculators. For example, Framingham does not include triglycerides and PROCAM does not include diastolic blood pressure.