A team of American and Chinese researchers acknowledged that seven key metrics in predicting risks of developing cardiovascular diseases (CVDs) in the future. The team also noted that modifying these measures may help decrease these risks.
Although it is beyond conventional capabilities to know if an individual will develop heart disease, numerous published studies identify and provide evidence as to which factors could increase the risk of developing these diseases.
With this information, distinguishing individuals at risk is possible in its early stages — and initiate preventive measures immediately.
Only recently, the study by researchers from China’s Kailuan General Hospital, the Pennsylvania State University, and Harvard University was published in the latest journal of JAMA Network Open. This team of researchers determined the relation between the seven key measures, which were identified by the American Heart Association, and the risk of developing CVD later on in life.
The seven key measures include four behaviors that could be controlled and modified. Also, there is three biometrics that must be kept at normal levels. Using these seven key measures, the researchers found five different patterns that could help predict risk for developing CVD.
Under the modifiable behaviors, the following are: no smoking, maintaining a healthy weight, eating healthy food, and staying physically active. On the other hand, the biometrics kept healthy all time are blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood sugar.
In this study, researchers found that individuals who consistently obtained a good score in the seven metrics had a lower chance of developing heart diseases than those scored poorly. To quantify the results, they designed a scoring system or parameters.
As an example, if an individual smoke regularly, his score would be considered “poor.” If he has smoked within the past 12 months, his score would be considered “intermediate.” Meanwhile, never smoking or quitting more than one year ago would be scored as “ideal.” If the scores in each metric will be combined, assigning 0 for poor, 1 for intermediate, and 2 for ideal, this would equate to that individual’s overall “cardiovascular health score” or CHS.
Unfortunately, researchers said that only approximately 2% of people reach the “ideal” rating on all seven metrics. Xiang Gao, associate professor of nutritional sciences and director of the Nutritional Epidemiology Lab at Penn State, said that “In our study population, and probably across the world, there are many people who have suboptimal or poor heart health. But, even though most people don’t meet the ideal criteria for all seven metrics, if we can work to improve those measures, the future risk of CVD can still decrease.”
The study included data from 74,701 Chinese adults from the Kailuan Study. The participants answered questionnaires about their health. They also underwent a series of clinical exams and laboratory tests in the first four years. During the five-year duration of the study, the researchers followed the participants and reported if there were incidences of CVD cases.
At the end of the study, the researchers analyzed their recorded data to see how the cardiovascular health score was associated with the development of CVD among the participants. They identified five patterns or trajectories that the participants followed throughout the four years.
These patterns include maintaining high, medium, or low CHS, and increasing and decreasing CHS over time. Researchers said that these different patterns were associated with different CVD risks.
“For example, about 19 percent of participants were able to maintain a better cardiovascular health score over the four years,” Gao said. “We found that those people had a 79 percent lower chance of developing heart disease in the future than people who maintained a low cardiovascular health score.”
He also added that the results were similar when they analyzed risk for stroke and myocardial infarction. According to him, “We found that improvement of overall cardiovascular health over time related to lower future CVD in this population, even for those with poor cardiovascular health status at the beginning of the study.”
To know whether one key metric was more important than the rest, the researchers repeated the tests, removing one metric every time, and assessed the results. They discovered that, similarly, the CHS still predicted CVD risk. Gao said that “This suggests that overall cardiovascular health is still the most important thing and that one factor isn’t more important than the others. It also helps confirm that these seven metrics are valid and a very useful tool for developing a strategy for cardiovascular disease prevention.”