The 7 metrics of heart disease risk could use a rewrite

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The seven metrics the American Heart Association uses to predict someone’s risk of heart disease and stroke don’t do enough to measure cardiovascular health, a new study shows.

That’s because they fail to take into account the significance of where a person carries excess fat on their body.

The researchers propose a revised set of guidelines, which they believe can better predict the rate of death from all causes, as well as cardiovascular disease mortality.

“People who carry more fat around the waist are more likely to suffer from cardiovascular disease,” says Lu Qi, director of the Tulane University Obesity Research Center and professor of epidemiology at the School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine. “The AHA guidelines should better reflect the distribution of body fat as an indicator of overall health.”

The American Heart Association relies on Life’s Simple 7 (LS7) metrics to assess and promote cardiovascular health. The guidelines list blood pressure, cholesterol, blood glucose levels, activity level, diet, weight, and tobacco use as the seven most important predictors of heart health.

However, a growing amount of research has found that when it comes to weight, two people may have the same body mass index but where they carry their body fat may have the biggest implications on their overall health.

The current American Heart Association metrics also use an old version of the Healthy Eating Index, which uses a scoring system to evaluate foods and measure overall diet quality. The index got an update in 2015, while the association has not revised its LS7 metrics. Recommendations for healthy blood pressures have also been updated in recent years, and Qi says the LS7 metrics should reflect that.

The research team used the health statistics of more than 13,000 adults surveyed as part of the US National Health and Nutrition Examinations Surveys from 1988 to 2016 to estimate national trends.

Researchers found that participants who were younger, female, more educated, more likely to be non-Hispanic white, and less likely to consume alcohol were less likely to have the indicators of heart disease, cancer, or all-cause mortality; though few US adults met 6 to 7 ideal revised LS7 metrics.

The new recommendations appear in a paper in JAMA Network.

Source: Tulane University