Heart Disease Risk

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Heart disease risk is largely a function of a few risk factors: age, sex, cholesterol measures, blood pressure, diabetes, and smoking. Based on large longitudinal studies, the risk of developing heart disease over the next ten years can be estimated if these risk factors are known.

Contributed by: Jason Cawley (Wolfram Research) (March 2011)
Open content licensed under CC BY-NC-SA


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The first example shows the substantial risk of heart disease of a male smoker with high blood pressure and unfavorable cholesterol levels.

The next shows the substantial drop in risk the same man could realize by quitting smoking.

With blood pressure and cholesterol levels well controlled, the risk drops further to below the average level for a man of the same age.

A healthy woman with the same risk measures as the previous has a substantially lower risk of heart disease than a man of similar age.

Nevertheless, combining multiple risk factors, including smoking, can result in a high risk of heart disease for women as well.

The underlying model is based on the Framingham heart study, a large sample of mostly Caucasian men and women from Massachusetts, USA, tracked for an extended period of time.

Two methods may be used to specify cholesterol measures: either total cholesterol and HDL levels or LDL and HDL levels may be specified.

There are also two common ways of measuring cholesterol levels: mg per dl, with a typical range of 30 (for HDL only) to perhaps 300, or mmol per L, with a typical range of less than 1 (HDP only) to perhaps 8. Be sure to use the control that has numbers in the right range for your own information.

Blood pressure is commonly quoted as a ratio, 130 over 80 or 130/80, for example. The first, larger figure is the systolic pressure and the second is the diastolic.

Needless to say, this Demonstration is for information purposes only; consult a physician for serious medical advice.



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