What age is your heart?

What age is your heart?

The Heart Foundation has launched a new online tool to raise awareness of heart disease by helping consumers work out their ‘heart age’. If this exceeds their actual age, they may be at risk of a heart attack or stroke.

This week’s launch coincides with a national campaign to drive greater awareness of heart disease as Australia’s leading killer.

The Heart Age Calculator is described as a motivational tool that focuses consumers’ attention on heart health and helps them understand their personal risk for heart attack or stroke. It is designed for people aged between 35 and 75 with no known history of heart conditions.

The foundation says those with a calculated higher heart age are encouraged to take steps to reduce their risks. If a person’s heart age exceeds their actual age, the calculator prompts people to see their doctor for a heart health check (absolute CVD risk assessment).

While the Heart Age Calculator is designed for consumers, the foundation recommends healthcare professionals use the absolute CVD risk assessment tool (http://www.cvdcheck.org.au/) to complete a heart health check. As the calculator is not a clinical tool, it does not replace the need to visit a doctor for a heart health check.

Consumers’ risk factors are entered into the calculator. These include age, sex, smoking and diabetes status, body mass index, cholesterol levels, blood pressure levels, whether they take medication, and any immediate-family history of heart attack/stroke before the age of 60. The calculator then estimates their heart age as above, below or equal to their actual age.

“If a person’s heart age is higher than their actual age, they’re at an increased risk of heart attack or stroke in the next five years,” Foundation Chief Medical Adviser Professor Garry Jennings said.

“A person’s heart age may be above their actual age if they have multiple risk factors including high blood pressure (above 140/90), total cholesterol above 5.5, HDL cholesterol level below one, or if they currently smoke or have diabetes. It is these risk factors that will determine whether heart age is higher or lower than your actual age.

“There are limitations in that the calculator doesn’t consider everything that can be related to risk of heart disease, including a person’s ethnicity or other heart conditions such as atrial fibrillation. These issues would be considered during an absolute CVD risk assessment (heart health check) with a doctor.

“Overseas experience, however, has shown that use of a heart age tool is an effective way to raise personal awareness of heart disease risks.”

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