She also had high cholesterol. And, she adds, “My dad is also a person who had a heart attack at a young age.” “We know that hypertension, smoking diabetes, high cholesterol family history of heart disease were the predominant factors that predict whether you will have a heart attack or heart disease,” says Dr. Mary Ann McLaughlin, a cardiologist with Mt. Sinai Heart.
All those risk factors…and what did her doctor think? “It just didn’t crop up as an issue,” says Judy. “There was nothing you could hear, unless somebody says gee, as a regular test in all my patients I’ll have them do a test to see if they have heart disease.” This on-line tool for women may be that test. It’s called the Reynolds Risk Score. It adds to the traditional risk factors a non-traditional one…the C - reactive protein. It also simplifies family history criteria to a history of heart attack in a parent before they reached age 60.
Overall, it is a more accurate predictive test than what we’ve had. Punch in your age, blood pressure, cholesterol numbers, C - reactive protein, and your family history, and you’ll find out your risk. Judy’s risk at the time of her heart attack was 9 percent. She could have seen what she could have done to lower the risk--stopping smoking alone would have lowered it to 4 percent. “Primary care doctors should be using this in their office to decide who to send on to a cardiologist,” says Dr. McLaughlin.
The tool has direct impact on who needs focused treatment to prevent a heart attack. “We know that high risk women need to be treated aggressively. To lower cholesterol to take aspirin, to really modify all their risk factors,” adds Dr. McLaughlin. Judy was treated only after the damage was done…after the heart attack…but she did take action to prevent further heart damage.
“I stopped smoking, not happily but I did it anyway,” says Judy. But it probably has saved her life. The study found they Reynolds’s score ended up reclassifying 40 to 50 percent of women at intermediate risk—that’s around 5 million women-- into higher- or lower-risk categories…in fact, it could even more than half the risk, or nearly double it.
A user-friendly calculator for the Reynolds Risk Score can be freely accessed by clicking on "Reynolds Risk Score."