The odds that a particular individual will have a heart attack are unknowable. But researchers can predict with fair accuracy the percentage of individuals in a large group who will have a heart attack. It depends on risk factors identified by the Framingham Heart Study, a research project that has studied residents of a Massachusetts town for more than 50 years. After you answer the questions below, you will see the rough percentage of similar-age people with your risk factors who typically have a heart attack in the following 10 years. (Try changing one or more risk factors, such as smoking or a cholesterol number, to see what happens to the risk.) Don't take this test if you're younger than age 20—the results will be unreliable.
- Anyone with heart disease (previous heart attack or stroke, past or present angina pain, evidence of vascular disease or abdominal aortic aneurysm) is automatically put in the "highest risk" group—more than a 20% chance of a heart attack in the next 10 years.
Your risk category
These categories are based on guidelines established by the National Cholesterol Education Program.
- Highest risk: A risk score of more than 20%, or a history of heart disease or diabetes.
- High risk: A risk score from 10 to 20% and two or more risk factors.
- Moderate risk: A risk score below 10% and two or more risk factors.
- Low risk: One or no risk factors.
Risk factors are smoking, high blood pressure (140/90 or higher, or use of drugs to lower blood pressure), low "good" or HDL cholesterol (below 40 mg/dL), family history of early heart disease, and age (45 or older for men, 55 or older for women).