University of Florida Researchers Develop Easy Tool to Predict Risk of Heart Attack, Stroke

January 9, 2020, GAINESVILLE, Fla. — A new assessment tool can predict users’ 10-year risk of heart attack or stroke with just a few patient-inputted responses, no lab tests required.

Developed by University of Florida researchers, the EZ-CVD calculates a person’s risk score based on six questions on sex, age, current smoking status, diagnosis of diabetes or high blood pressure, and family history of premature heart attack. The UF team describes the development and validation of the tool in a paper published in the Journal of the American Heart Association.

The EZ-CVD doesn’t diagnose cardiovascular disease. Users who score in the high-risk category should share the information with their doctor so they can provide advice or treatment, as necessary.

The UF researchers set out to develop an accurate tool that was easier for patients to use than the current standard risk score, the Atherosclerotic Cardiovascular Disease, or ASCVD, offered online by the American College of Cardiology and the American Heart Association. Because the ASCVD requires users to know their current cholesterol and blood pressure levels, adoption has been limited, said lead author Hend Mansoor, Ph.D., Pharm.D., a recent graduate of the health services research Ph.D. program in the UF College of Public Health and Health Professions, part of UF Health.

“By providing patients with a very easy-to-use risk score they can do on their own, we hope to increase the number of at-risk individuals receiving preventive therapy for cardiovascular disease,” Mansoor said.

EZ-CVD also has the potential to greatly improve delivery of care in a timely manner, said senior author Arch G. Mainous III, Ph.D., chair of the UF Department of Health Services Research, Management and Policy.

“To use the ASCVD correctly, if the patient doesn’t have recent cholesterol results the physician would have to order those tests, send the patient to the lab and wait for the results to be able to compute the patient’s risk for a heart attack or stroke. They can’t do it for the patient in that visit,” Mainous said.

To create EZ-CVD, Mansoor and her colleagues tested several traditional heart disease risk factors as well as some nontraditional factors that recent research suggests might be associated with future heart attack or stroke. Using data from a study that tracks the long-term heart health of nearly 16,000 participants in four U.S. communities, the UF team pinpointed six risk factors that reliably predicted heart events, including family history of premature heart attack, which is not part of the ASCVD. Next, the researchers compared the predictive performance of the six risk factors that make up the EZ-CVD to the ASCVD. The EZ-CVD performed just as well as the ASCVD.

Available at ez-cvd.phhp.ufl.edu, the EZ-CVD could be taken quickly by patients prior to a medical appointment, Mainous said.

“The EZ-CVD could be used by health systems to have patients compute their risk at home several days prior to their next visit and have it inserted into the electronic health record,” said Mainous, the Florida Blue endowed chair of health administration. “Patients could also complete the EZ-CVD at a kiosk or a tablet computer when they come in for an appointment and have the score available to review with the doctor during the visit.”

In addition to Mansoor and Mainous, UF research team members included Ara Jo, Ph.D., and Madsen Beau De Rochars, M.D., M.P.H., assistant professors in the department of health services research, management and policy; and Carl J. Pepine, M.D., a professor in the UF College of Medicine’s division of cardiovascular medicine.

For more information, please contact Jill Pease at jpease@phhp.ufl.edu or 352-273-5816.