Patients respond better to 'heart age' than risk score, study says

Expressing a patient's cardiovascular risk as a 'heart age' is more likely to elicit a positive lifestyle change, UK research suggests.

Researchers found that heart age - an age-adjusted analogy to express the risk of developing cardiovascular disease - was more likely to affect a positive response in patients than a traditional percentage figure.

Patients who have undergone cardiovascular risk assessment are commonly given a percentage chance of developing the disease in the next ten years.

But researchers said patients tend to underestimate this risk, especially in those with low to moderate disease risk with modifiable risk factors.

The team from Unilever's Colworth Science Park in Bedfordshire suggested the heart age message elicited a greater emotional response from people than a number because it made the risk assessment more individual.

Researchers assessed the cardiovascular health of 413 people and expressed their chance of developing the condition using either a percentage risk score or as a heart age score.

They found that, at higher levels of actual CVD risk, only those participants receiving the heart age message accurately saw themselves as being at higher risk.

Lead author Mark Cobain said: ‘These findings are important since patients with higher levels of modifiable risk factors, such as smoking and obesity, are precisely those who most need to be motivated to reduce their risk factors.'

He added: ‘If heart age can help patients to fully appreciate their own risk, then the likelihood of them taking action to modify their diet and lifestyle is much higher.'

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