Questions raised over tools used to predict risk of cardiovascular disease

16 February 2015        

A man clutching his chest in pain as if he is having a heart attack. A woman stands by him, concerned, with her arms on his shoulders.

Researchers have questioned the validity of tools used in the USA to predict patients’ risk of cardiovascular disease, however our experts say these findings are not applicable to the UK.

Risk calculators are used by medical professionals to assess whether or not someone is at risk of coronary heart disease, or a potentially life-threatening heart attack or stroke.

These tools can be used to predict which interventions and lifestyle changes a patient could make to lower their risk and potentially add years to their life.

Researchers studied the effectiveness of five different tools used in the USA to predict cardiovascular incidents in over 4,000 people and concluded the calculators were overestimating patients’ risk.

Dr Mike Knapton, our Associate Medical Director, said: “This study raises an important point – that the calibration of risk calculators needs to be regularly undertaken to ensure we are identifying and reducing cardiovascular risk in the right people

“However, this research was conducted in the USA and the results are not applicable to the UK as we use different calculators. In the UK we recognise the opposite problem, as our risk calculators are actually underestimating cardiovascular risk in some groups – particularly younger women – potentially denying them access to treatments which could save their life.

“The BHF has recently developed a new app with Public Health England to address this and help assess people’s lifelong risk. Understanding your cardiovascular risk is really important. If you want to understand what yours is and how to reduce it visit your GP.”