Our calculator—which estimates your risk of having a heart attack, stroke, or other cardiovascular event in the next 10 years—is based on on-going research from the Framingham Heart Study. That study began in 1948 by looking at a group of over 5,000 men and women in Framingham, Mass., and has followed them, their children, and their grandchildren ever since. It is one of the largest, longest, and most comprehensive studies of cardiovascular risk available. Framingham researchers have published more than 2,000 scientific studies about their results so far.
The formulas in our calculator come from a Framingham study published in 2008, in which researchers recorded baseline information for 8,491 initially healthy men and women between 30 and 74. After 10 years, they documented which participants developed cardiovascular disease (including angina, coronary death, coronary insufficiency, heart attack, heart failure, hemorrhagic stroke, ischemic stroke, transient ischemic attack, or peripheral artery disease) and then looked at the risk factors they started with. Based on those findings, the researchers developed equations and tables that can estimate an individual's risk of developing cardiovascular disease over 10 years based on age, gender, systolic (upper) blood pressure level, total and HDL (good) cholesterol levels, and whether the person smokes, has diabetes, or takes blood pressure drugs. For people who don't know their cholesterol levels, the equations allow users to use their body mass index (which compares weight with height) instead.
What's your risk of having a heart attack or stroke?
Our calculator can estimate your risk of having a heart attack, stroke, or other cardiovascular event in the next 10 years, and help us develop recommendations for what you can do to keep your heart healthy.
Our calculator provides three pieces of information:
1. An estimate of your 10-year risk of developing cardiovascular disease
A low risk doesn't guarantee protection against the disease but shows that your chance of developing it is lower than for some other people. And a high risk doesn't mean it is inevitable but should serve as a warning. Some risk factors, such as increasing age and gender (men are at higher risk than women) can't be changed. But people can often reduce their risk by, for example, losing excess weight, quitting smoking, or lowering their blood pressure or cholesterol levels. People who stop exercising, gain weight, or adopt other unhealthy habits can expect their risk to increase.
2. A comparison between your current risk and your optimal risk
That is, the risk for someone your age and gender who has an optimal blood pressure level (a systolic of 110 millimeters of mercury, or mmHg); optimal cholesterol levels (a total cholesterol of 160 milligrams per deciliter and an HDL of 60 mg/dL); and who doesn't smoke, have diabetes, or take medication for high blood pressure. The optimal risk provides a benchmark that you can compare yourself against.
3. Your heart age
This is the age of someone of your gender in normal health, who has the same 10-year risk as you do. This hypothetical "normal" person does not smoke or have diabetes, doesn't take medication for high blood pressure, and has a systolic blood pressure of 125 mmHg, a total cholesterol of 180 mg/dL, and an HDL of 45 mg/dL.