Calculating heart disease risk is an important result I share with my Heart Health coaching clients. It’s not something I calculate on the first visit. Instead, it’s something we aggregate over time.
This intake process is perhaps one of the most tedious aspects of our visits. But it doesn’t go down bitterly; I make it entertaining enough. With a healthy dose of humor, we get through it and can decide which actions to focus on next.
The current heart risk scores don’t apply to all patients and certainly don’t account for all known heart disease factors.
A risk score should be something actionable and empowering. Not a data point that induces fear or paralyzes the individual.
Heart Risk Score
A sedentary, obese 17-year-old videogame player who eats a processed diet will have a low score, mostly because her age is highly protective. Her risk score is low, meaning her heart disease risk is low.
There hasn’t been enough time for inflammation or atherosclerosis to take effect.
The risk score has several factors I take into consideration but each risk factor carries a different weight.
A thin, active smoker who eats a healthy diet will have a very low heart risk score because the other factors are quite protective. More protective than the negative effects of the smoking habit.
Heart Disease Risk Factors
Most of my health coaching clients already know the most common risk factors:
- high blood pressure
- high cholesterol
- family history
But that doesn’t tell the whole story. To dive in deeper, I also want to factor in other heart risk score factors.
- low heart rate variability
- central adiposity
- autoimmune disease
- air pollution
- muscle mass
- hydration level
- medication use
- noise pollution
- substance use
- alcohol use
- coping strategies
- sleep apnea
Using the Score
What’s the use of a score if it just makes you fearful? The purpose of the score is to create awareness and empowerment, and spark action.
If obesity is the biggest factor, then we might address that first. But if it’s the hardest factor for the client to change, we’ll focus on other high-risk factors instead.
There is no one-size-fits-all. Each one of us is unique. Everything we do matters, and our health is perpetually evolving.