Health Team

New tool helps predict risks of heart attack or stroke

Posted January 12, 2009 5:45 p.m. EST
Updated March 9, 2009 5:12 p.m. EDT

— Heart attack and stroke account for almost one out of every three deaths in the United States. Often, people don't even know they are at risk until it is too late. However, a new online tool may help identify those people and cut their risk.

A few months ago, a heart attack led Dave Horne, 49, to a heart rehab class at Rex Healthcare. He said he would have liked to have known about his risk for a heart attack or stroke years ago.

“At my age – in my 40s – I just wasn't thinking about it,” Horne said.

Knowing your risk is as easy as going online for about seven minutes with the Rex Healthcare HeartAware tool.

“People come out with a risk assessment of their true risk of having a heart attack,” said Dr. Wayne Smith, a Rex Healthcare cardiologist.

You must know your numbers to complete the survey, such as your height and weight, cholesterol levels and blood pressure.

If you have a family history of heart disease, you are put in a 5 percent risk category. If you fall into the above-5-percent category, you will be called into a healthcare facility for a more formal assessment to minimize your risk of having a heart attack or stroke.

“If you take this risk assessment and you have a risk profile of over 20 percent, you are treated just like you've already had a stent or heart attack,” Smith said.

Horne was in that group and is now doing what he can to cut his risk of another heart attack or stroke.

“It finally got me motivated to make some changes,” he said.

Among the changes Horne made was a healthier diet, regular exercise and frequent checkups.