Framingham Risk Score: A Guide to Measuring a Healthy Heart
Maintaining a healthy lifestyle can help you live a better life and lower your risk of developing chronic diseases. Unfortunately, despite the advancements in medical technology and research, some illnesses are considerably harder to keep an eye on. In some cases, doctors don’t typically detect these problems until several symptoms begin to manifest.
Many symptoms of heart disease can overlap or look common to other health problems. These can be caused by many factors such as lifestyle choices, family history, and age. For this reason, coronary heart disease has become one of the most common cardiovascular diseases in the country.
As a preventative measure, your Framingham risk score can help you determine your risks of cardiovascular diseases. For more information, read the infographic below.
What is the Framingham risk score?1
The Framingham risk score is a test used to predict your risk of cardiovascular diseases in the next ten years. The results of this assessment vary depending on several factors such as age, biological gender, lifestyle habits, family history, etc. Risks are measured as low if the score is less than 10%, medium risk measured between 10–19%, and high-risk if at 20% and higher.
To accurately measure your risk of coronary disease, you must include details regarding your cholesterol levels and blood pressure. If you have other pre-existing health conditions such as diabetes or cancer, it can also increase your risk percentage.
What is coronary heart disease?2
Coronary Heart Disease describes a condition where the blood supply for your heart is blocked or interrupted by a buildup of plaque or fatty substances in the arteries, which can also damage the walls of your blood vessels. When left untreated, the arteries become narrower, which can trigger more health problems such as heart attacks.
Symptoms of coronary heart disease include light-headedness, shortness of breath, neck pain, sleep disturbances, cold sweats, and chest pain. In most cases, this health problem is not usually detected until more symptoms develop.
When is the best time to take the test?3
You can begin to determine your Framingham risk score at the age of 30. In most cases, the assessment requires you to know your cholesterol levels and blood pressure to accurately determine your risk of developing coronary heart disease.
When taking the test, it’s important to note other modifiable risk factors that could affect your results. These include smoking habits and pre-existing health conditions, or if you’re currently under prescribed medications.
Factors that contribute to the Framingham risk score4
- Biological Sex
The rates of cardiovascular diseases are known to be higher in biological men than women. The gender difference is more prominent with age because higher levels of sex hormones are produced in younger people than those who are older.
On average, men are recorded to have their first heart attack at the age of 65, while for women, it’s 72. However, women are noted to have higher risks of strokes at an older age.
Both genders aged 65 and over are more likely to develop cardiovascular diseases than younger people. This is because as you age, your heart and blood vessels are more prone to damage which can increase your risk level.
Other studies suggest that older cells in the body may grow weaker as you age, affecting the performance of major organs and circulatory systems.
- Cholesterol Levels
Excess amounts of cholesterol in your blood can cause buildup that prevents oxygen-rich blood from reaching your heart. This plaque sticks to the walls of the arteries, making the pathway narrower and slowing down or blocking the flow of blood.
Cholesterol levels can increase depending on the food you eat, such as saturated fats and trans fats. For both adult men and women, a cholesterol level of less than 200 milligrams per deciliter is ideal.
Your ethnicity can play a role in assessing your Framingham risk score. According to research, cardiovascular diseases are more prominent among economies with diverse ethnic groups. This may be because of lifestyle differences between cultures and the environment that they live in.
Regular and heavy smoking can lead to several health complications and diseases such as cancer, diabetes, and cardiovascular problems. The habit can also increase plaque buildup in the arteries and lungs, decreasing the quality of performance of major organs.
- Amount of Exercise
Regular exercise can help you decrease the risk of developing cardiovascular diseases because it can significantly lower your blood pressure. Apart from this, you also lessen the risk of plaque buildup in your arteries and blood vessels.
- Family History
Several types of cardiovascular diseases can be inherited from other members of the family. A genetic mutation in a single gene passed on to family members can affect how the body processes cholesterol, increasing the chances of blocked arteries.
- Diabetes and Insulin Resistance
When your blood sugar level increases, it can cause damage to your blood vessels and the nerves around it. Because of this, you can be at a higher risk of developing heart diseases as it also affects your blood pressure.
Being overweight can cause you to have a higher risk of heart diseases due to increased blood pressure. This makes it more difficult for your body to circulate blood and oxygen to your heart. It’s also one of the leading causes of heart attacks among individuals.
Limitations of the Framingham risk score5
Before you assess your Framingham risk score, it’s important to note that this test is limited to predicting your chances of developing coronary heart disease. In other words, it cannot predict other cardiovascular events that you may experience, such as a transient ischemic attack, heart failure, and strokes.
There are two versions of the Framingham risk score: the 2002 and 2008 algorithms. The 2008 version can predict your risk more accurately than the 2002 alternative due to the difference in the tested population at the time.
Preparing with Precautions
Chronic illnesses can begin to develop at any time where the risks increase as you get older. So, it’s always a good idea to get checked regularly to prevent life-threatening diseases such as coronary heart disease.
Know the status of your heart health today with the use of our Framingham risk score calculator. It’s better to know your risks and take action now before it’s too late.
Disclaimer: The information provided is for information purposes only and is not meant to be substituted for the advice given by a registered medical practitioner. This information should not be used for diagnosing health problems or for self-medication. Boehringer Ingelheim shall not be responsible for any damages or losses arising out of access to or use of information provided.