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Calculating your risk of heart attack or stroke

A calculator developed by local researchers can help predict your risk of cardiovascular disease.
Photo of Doctor Doug Manuel, lead author on the paper and a senior scientist at The Ottawa Hospital, professor at the University of Ottawa, and a senior core scientist at the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences. Provided photo.

Local researchers have created a new online calculator which can predict someone's risk of cardiovascular disease.

The calculator, created by researchers at The Ottawa Hospital, uses survey data from more than 100,000 Canadians -- obtained from Statistics Canada's health surveys. 

"In cardiovascular disease, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure," said Dr. Doug Manuel, lead author on the research paper and a senior scientist at The Ottawa Hospital.

Existing risk calculators focus on factors that require medical tests on blood pressure and cholesterol levels. "What sets this cardiovascular risk calculator apart is that it looks at healthy living, and it is better calibrated to the Canadian population," said Dr. Manuel.

The calculator provides an individual with their risk of hospitalization or death due to cardiovascular disease within the next five years by taking certain factors into consideration. The tool analyzes one's diet, physical activity levels, alcohol consumption, and whether the person smokes or not.

If an individual's risk level is five per cent, it means that five in 100 people like them will experience a serious cardiovascular event in the next five years. The tool also provides an individual with their heart age, which is a measure of how healthy one's heart is.

The calculator also takes into consideration a person's stress levels, socioeconomic status, immigration status, education levels, ethnicity, their sense of belonging, and whether or not they have diabetes and/or high blood pressure.

"A lot of people are interested in healthy living, but often we don't have that discussion in the doctor’s office," said Dr. Manuel. 

"Doctors will check your blood pressure and cholesterol levels, but they don’t necessarily ask about lifestyle factors that could put you at risk of a heart attack and stroke. We hope this tool can help people - and their care team - with better information about healthy living and options for reducing their risk of heart attack and stroke," he added.

The calculator is available online at Project Big Life.

The free-to-use service also offers life expectancy, sodium, and elder-life calculators.

The research has been published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal.

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