Heart risk


Roundup: New ‘Risk Calculator’ Detects Heart, Stroke Risks; CDC on Declining Vaccinations Among Kindergartners; and More News

American Heart Association: New ‘Risk Calculator’ Evaluates More People for Risk of Heart Attack, Stroke and Heart Failure

The new tool, referred to as a “risk calculator,” evaluates an individual’s risk of heart attack, stroke and – for the first time using such a calculator – heart failure, according to the American Heart Association (AHA). The rick calculator also considers new measures of cardiovascular disease, kidney disease and metabolic disease, which includes type 2 diabetes and obesity.

“Compared with the existing calculator, the new version allows health professionals to evaluate younger people and look further into the future,” states the AHA in a news release.

The risk calculator provides physicians with health data, such as blood pressure and cholesterol levels, as well as demographic and socioeconomic information, to produce a risk estimate or score, the AHA said. The new calculator has a formal name: PREVENT. It stands for “Predicting Risk of cardiovascular disease EVENTs.” An online tool is being developed.

The new calculator incorporates cardiovascular-kidney-metabolic syndrome, or CKM syndrome,  which was introduced by the AHA in October. People with CKM syndrome, which covers five stages, are at higher risk of heart attack, stroke or heart failure with each stage.

Details about the calculator were published Friday in the journal Circulation as a scientific statement.

States the AHA: “The new calculator can assess people from ages 30 to 79 and can predict risk for heart attack, stroke and heart failure over the next 10 years and 30 years. The previous calculator was designed for people starting at age 40 and looked only 10 years ahead.”

The new calculator provides a measure for predicting heart failure, a condition in which the heart can't pump well. In people with obesity, diabetes or kidney disease, the risk for heart failure can be higher than the risk for heart attack or stroke, the AHA says.

CDC: High Exemption Rate Could Spur Childhood Outbreaks of Vaccine-Preventable Diseases

The number of children whose parents or caregivers are opting them out of routine childhood vaccines has reached an all-time high, according to a new report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The CDC warns that this trend “increases the risk for outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases” such as measles and whooping cough.

States the CDC: “Nationwide, vaccination coverage among kindergarten students remains below pre-pandemic levels, and exemptions have increased. Because clusters of under-vaccinated children can lead to outbreaks, it is important for immunization programs, schools, and providers to make sure children are fully vaccinated before school entry, or before provisional enrollment periods expire.”

In previous years, nearly all states had the potential to achieve 95 percent or better coverage if all nonexempt students were vaccinated, the CDC explains. But increases in state-level exemptions have reduced that number by 17 percent, from 48 states in 2020–21 to 40 states in 2022–23.

From the 2019–20 to the 2021–22 school year, national coverage with state-required vaccines among kindergartners declined from 95 percent to about 93 percent, ranging from 92.7 percent for diphtheria, tetanus, and acellular pertussis vaccine (DTaP) to 93.1 percent for polio.

The CDC’s latest updated found that during the 2022–23 school year, coverage remained near 93 percent for all reported vaccines, ranging from 92.7 percent for DTaP to 93.1 percent for measles, mumps, and rubella and polio. The exemption rate increased 0.4 percentage points to 3.0 percent. Exemptions increased in 41 states, exceeding 5 percent in 10 states.

New Studies Show Extent of How Depression, Anxiety and Stress Fuel Poor Heart Health

Research continues to show that there’s a connection between mental health and cardiovascular well-being. Two new studies find that depression, anxiety and chronic stress all increase the risk for heart attack and stroke. The new research was presented this month at the American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions 2023.

“The findings are more evidence of the mind-heart connection, showing how poor brain health can open pathways to cardiovascular disease, which is the top cause of death in the nation,” states the American Heart Association (AHA) in a news release.

The first study, from researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School, focused on the mechanism by which the mental state affects heart health. They found that anxiety and depression sped the development of new cardiovascular disease risk factors. They examined data over a ten-year span on adults, with no previous heart issues, who enrolled in the Mass General Brigham Biobank in Boston.

Participants previously diagnosed with anxiety or depression developed a new heart disease risk factor six months, on average, earlier than those who did not have depression or anxiety. Depression and anxiety increased the risk for a heart attack or stroke by about 35 percent. “Researchers suggest that depression and anxiety might induce brain changes that trigger downstream effects in the body, such as increased inflammation and fat deposition,” the AHA states.

In the second separate study, researchers reviewed the effects of cumulative stress on heart and brain health based on responses to questionnaires completed by adults without existing heart disease who took part in the Dallas Heart Study.

Even after adjusting for risk factors, such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, smoking and diabetes, as well as income and education, the researchers in the second study found that higher cumulative stress was associated with a 22 percent increased risk of atherosclerosis – which is when plaque builds up in the arteries reducing adequate blood flow. They also found that cumulative stress was linked to a 20 percent increased risk of overall heart disease; including coronary artery disease and heart failure.

“These studies add to a growing body of data we have on how negative psychological health can increase the risk of heart and brain disease,” stated Glenn N. Levine, M.D., , writing committee chair of the American Heart Associations’ 2021 Psychological Health, Well-Being, and the Mind-Heart-Body Connection scientific statement.

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