The new method starts by labeling women with known cardiovascular disease or diabetes as "high risk," with a 12.5 percent chance of a heart attack or death in the next 10 years. Women with at least one major risk factor, including smoking, physical inactivity or a high-fat diet, are listed as "at risk," with a 3.1 percent chance of an event in the next decade, while those with no risk factors are "optimal risk," with a 1.1 decade-long chance of an event.
"One of the advantages of the guidelines we are assessing is that it is easier to do the calculation," said Dr. Judith Hsia, who began the study as a professor of medicine at George Washington University and now is senior director of clinical research at the pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca.
When the method was applied to the 161,808 participants in the Women's Health Initiative, 11 percent were classified as "high risk," 72 percent as "at risk" and 4 percent as "optimal risk." The other 13 percent couldn't be classified for various reasons.
"This method doesn't give you a numeric value," Hsia said. "It just tells you whether you are at risk. You have to take the result to your health care provider and say, 'Am I at risk? Is there anything I can do about it?'"
Cardiovascular risk assessment for women is described by the American Heart Association.
SOURCES: Judith Lichtman, Ph.D., associate professor, medicine, Yale School of Medicine, New Haven, Conn.; Chiara Melloni, M.D., assistant professor, medicine, Duke University, Durham, N.C.; Judith Hsia, senior director, clinical research, AstraZeneca, Wilmington, Del.; Feb. 17, 2010, Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes, online
All rights reserved