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Heart Disease Health Center

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Heart Risk Profile: Treatment Motivator

Learning Your 'Cardiovascular Age' Can Help You Stick to a Heart Treatment Plan
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Nov. 26, 2007 -- Putting heart disease risk factors into perspective with an age-related heart risk profile may be a powerful motivator to help people take their treatment seriously.

A new study shows people with abnormal cholesterol levels who received a printout from their doctor describing the probability of developing heart disease in the near future were more likely to adhere to their treatment plan than others.

The profile put their heart disease risk factors into perspective by calculating their cardiovascular age. Cardiovascular age was calculated by adding the difference between life expectancy for a person with heart disease of their age from the average life expectancy at the same age.

For example, based on high cholesterol and other heart disease risk factors, a 50-year-old might expect to live another 25 years vs. 30 years for the average 50-year-old, resulting in a cardiovascular age of 55.

Age Gap in Heart Risk

Researchers found people with a larger "age gap" between cardiovascular age and actual age were highly motivated to adhere to their cholesterol treatment plan, including taking cholesterol-lowering drugs and making healthy diet and lifestyle changes.

The results after a year of follow-up showed people with a larger age gap also experienced greater reductions in low-density lipoprotein (LDL "bad" cholesterol) levels. People who received their risk profile were also more likely to achieve cholesterol level targets.

"Communicating risk is consistent with many of the recommendations to improve adherence, including enhancing self-monitoring and using the support of family and friends," write researcher Steven A. Grover, MD, of McGill University in Montreal, in the Archives of Internal Medicine.

In an editorial that accompanies the study, Rod Jackson MBChB, PhD and Sue Wells, MBChB, MPH of the University of Auckland say putting various heart disease risk factors together into a heart risk profile puts the risk into perspective and motivates those at risk to take action.

"For most patients, their actual blood cholesterol level or blood pressure becomes clinically meaningful only when considered in combination with other risk factors and when the cardiovascular risk is calculated," they write.

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