A new way of calculating heart risk

The typical way of conveying heart risk is a statistic showing the odds of having a heart attack in the next decade. But that can be tough for patients to understand — so an alternative is to simply calculate an age equivalent for the arteries, according to a story in the Wall Street Journal.

Learning that while you’re 30, your smoking habit, diabetes, high blood pressure and other risk factors make your blood vessels closer to those of an 80-year-old can be a stark way to illustrate the problem at hand.

The information is helpful rather than just frightening because vascular age can be rolled back with lifestyle measures and, for some, cholesterol-fighting statins.

Weight loss, exercise and quitting cigarettes can all improve the health of the cells lining the blood vessels, preventing the stiffening and accumulation of fatty plaques that lead to heart trouble. The hope is that presenting information this way will better help patients understand their risk and motivate them to make changes.

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