Doctors can now calculate cardiovascular risk in African-Americans for the first time ever. The new equations offer greater accuracy in predicting the chances of heart attack or stroke in African-Americans, whose risk levels are higher than whites.
But the new risk equations actually benefit everyone. That’s because for the first time, stroke risk has been added to the equation, giving patients a two-in-one assessment of their future cardiovascular health.
The updated risk equations for white men and women – and the brand-new risk equations for African-American men and women – were published in the risk assessment guideline from the American Heart Association and American College of Cardiology.
African-Americans at greater risk for heart disease
For decades, health providers have had to rely on risk equations based on long-term research in a white population – a group less at risk for heart attack and stroke than African-Americans. Doctors also often had to assess heart disease and stroke risk separately.
Healthcare systems and providers should adopt the new risk equations as soon as possible, said David Goff, Jr., M.D., Ph.D., who co-chaired a 17-member expert committee that wrote the guideline and an American Heart Association volunteer. “We believe the new equations are better because they are based on a broader, more current set of research data and assess both heart attack and stroke risk,” said Goff, dean of the Colorado School of Public Health in Aurora.
The new equations are recommended for 40- to 79-year-olds and measure a person’s risk for a heart attack or stroke within the next 10 years. A separate equation is available to estimate a person’s lifetime risk, which is recommended starting at age 20.
To calculate 10-year risk, the equation uses race, gender, age, total cholesterol, HDL (good) cholesterol, blood pressure, use of blood pressure medication, diabetes status and smoking status. “That’s it,” Goff said. “Nothing that requires anything more than a visit to your healthcare provider and a fasting blood draw.”
Reduce heart disease risk through lifestyle changes and, in some cases, medication
About 610,000 Americans have a first stroke every year. Another 525,000 have a first heart attack. The good news is that the risks can be lowered through lifestyle changes and, in some cases, medications such as statins.
Talk to your doctor about the best strategies to lower your risk.
“You can’t do much about your risk if you don’t know what it is,” Goff said.
Learn more about your risk for heart disease on Go Red.