Researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health have devised a new online tool, the Healthy Heart Score, for individuals to estimate their risk of developing cardiovascular diseases through lifestyle factors such as exercise and diet.

The model was developed using health data from 61,025 women in the Nurses' Health Study and 34,478 men in the Health Professionals Follow-up Study, who were free of chronic disease in 1986 and followed for 24 years. During the study period, there were 3,775 cases of CVD (including nonfatal myocardial infarction, fatal coronary heart disease and ischemic stroke) in women and 3,506 cases in men.

The Healthy Heart Score is based on the nine most critical diet and lifestyle factors that can influence a person’s risk of developing CVD in the next 20 years. The calculator walks users through a series of easy-to-follow questions about their lifestyle, such as “Do you smoke cigarettes?” and “During the past year, how often, on average, do you eat a serving of fruit?” Users receive a risk score of low (green), moderate (yellow), or high (red), and a printable assessment with tips for improvement such as, “Instead of sliced deli turkey or chicken in sandwiches, try rotisserie chicken or roasted turkey,” and “Try a variety of nuts, including almonds, pistachios and cashews.”

“This tool represents the first time that data from large-scale, well-conducted studies were used to develop an easy-to-use CVD prevention tool,” said Eric Rimm, professor of epidemiology and nutrition at HSPH and senior author of the study.

The study was published online Nov. 14 in the Journal of the American Heart Association. The tool proved so popular immediately after its publication HSPH officials said there were intermittent delays in accessing it.

The tool is available here.

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