A Change of Heart
A new tool alerts women to their hidden risks of heart disease
Daniel Levy, current director of the Framingham study, points out that both methods do agree on risk levels in 92 percent of the patients. "So I think you can do a great job with both approaches," he says. And Hayes agrees, up to a point. "You can correctly predict a woman's 10-year risk with Framingham," says Hayes. "But maybe as women we need a longer timeline. Heart trouble does appear later in us. And women do live longer." Her hope is that with refinement like the Reynolds score, more women will get a chance to do just that.
Taking a Calculated Risk
The Reynolds Risk Score for women focuses on seven factors that accurately predicted heart disease in a study of 8,000 women. Plugged into an equation, the numbers are combined to estimate future chances of a heart attack, stroke, or other cardiovascular problem. The factors are:
C-reactive protein. This blood molecule indicates artery damage and inflammation. A score higher than 3 on a test called high-sensitivity CRP means elevated risk.
Family history. A heart attack in either parent before age 60 increases risk.
Age. Women's risk starts to climb sharply after age 60, unlike men's risk, which begins climbing a decade earlier.
Smoking. It multiplies chances of a heart attack or stroke two to four times.
Systolic blood pressure. That's the first number in the reading, indicating the pressure when the heart contracts to pump; a healthy level is under 120.
Total cholesterol. A level under 200 mg/dL, detected in a blood test, lowers risk.
HDL or "good" cholesterol. Levels higher than 50 mg/dL are desirable.