New online calculator estimates cardiovascular disease risk

November 14, 2014

Boston, MA -- The new Healthy Heart Score developed by researchers at Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) gives individuals an easy method to estimate their 20-year risk of developing cardiovascular disease (CVD) based on simple lifestyle habits. The free web-based survey, which will be found at, also gives users practical tips for improving their scores by incorporating heart-healthy habits into their daily lives.

"Currently recommended risk models for CVD are harder for an individual to calculate on their own because they include clinical risk factors such as elevated cholesterol and blood pressure. These risk scores, which are mostly used in doctors' offices, often underestimate the burden of CVD among middle-aged adults, and women in particular," said Stephanie Chiuve, a research associate in the Department of Nutrition at HSPH and assistant professor in medicine at Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women's Hospital. "The Healthy Heart Score is all about modifiable lifestyle risks, which may increase awareness of CVD prevention through lifestyle interventions earlier in life, prior to the development of clinical risk factors."

The study will appear online November 13, 2014 in the Journal of the American Heart Association.

Despite being one of the leading causes of mortality and morbidity in the U.S. and globally, almost all CVD is preventable. Adults who remain free of clinical CVD risk factors when they are middle-aged have an extremely low risk of developing the disease for the rest of their life.

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 up to 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: smoking, weight, exercise, and intake of alcohol, fruits and vegetables, whole grains, nuts, sugary beverages, and red and processed meat.

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.
Other HSPH authors include Nancy Cook, JoAnn Manson, and Walter Willett.

Additional information on the role of diet and lifestyle factors for the prevention of CVD and other chronic diseases can also be found at HSPH's Nutrition Source,

This study was funded by primarily by a Clinical Research Program Award from the American Heart Association. The Nurses' Health Study is funded by CA87969, HL034594 and HL088521 and the Health Professionals Follow-up Study is funded by CA167552, CA055075 and HL35464 from the NIH. Chiuve is also supported by HL097068 from the National Institutes of Health.

"A lifestyle-based prediction model for the prevention of CVD: The Healthy Heart Score," Stephanie E. Chiuve, Nancy R. Cook, Christina M. Shay, Kathryn M. Rexrode, Christine M. Albert, JoAnn E. Manson, Walter C. Willett, Eric B. Rimm, Journal of the American Heart Association, online Nov. 14, 2014, doi: 10.1161/JAHA.114.000954

Visit the HSPH website for the latest news, press releases and multimedia offerings.

Harvard School of Public Health brings together dedicated experts from many disciplines to educate new generations of global health leaders and produce powerful ideas that improve the lives and health of people everywhere. As a community of leading scientists, educators, and students, we work together to take innovative ideas from the laboratory to people's lives--not only making scientific breakthroughs, but also working to change individual behaviors, public policies, and health care practices. Each year, more than 400 faculty members at HSPH teach 1,000-plus full-time students from around the world and train thousands more through online and executive education courses. Founded in 1913 as the Harvard-MIT School of Health Officers, the School is recognized as America's oldest professional training program in public health.

HSPH on Twitter:
HSPH on Facebook:
HSPH on You Tube:
HSPH home page:

Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health

Related Public Health Articles from Brightsurf:

COVID-19 and the decolonization of Indigenous public health
Indigenous self-determination, leadership and knowledge have helped protect Indigenous communities in Canada during the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, and these principles should be incorporated into public health in future, argue the authors of a commentary in CMAJ (Canadian Medical Association Journal)

Public health consequences of policing homelessness
In a new study examining homelessness, researchers find that policy such a lifestyle has massive public health implications, making sleeping on the street even MORE unhealthy.

Electronic health information exchange improves public health disease reporting
Disease tracking is an important area of focus for health departments in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Pandemic likely to cause long-term health problems, Yale School of Public Health finds
The coronavirus pandemic's life-altering effects are likely to result in lasting physical and mental health consequences for many people--particularly those from vulnerable populations--a new study led by the Yale School of Public Health finds.

The Lancet Public Health: US modelling study estimates impact of school closures for COVID-19 on US health-care workforce and associated mortality
US policymakers considering physical distancing measures to slow the spread of COVID-19 face a difficult trade-off between closing schools to reduce transmission and new cases, and potential health-care worker absenteeism due to additional childcare needs that could ultimately increase mortality from COVID-19, according to new modelling research published in The Lancet Public Health journal.

The Lancet Public Health: Access to identification documents reflecting gender identity may improve trans mental health
Results from a survey of over 20,000 American trans adults suggest that having access to identification documents which reflect their identified gender helps to improve their mental health and may reduce suicidal thoughts, according to a study published in The Lancet Public Health journal.

The Lancet Public Health: Study estimates mental health impact of welfare reform, Universal Credit, in Great Britain
The 2013 Universal Credit welfare reform appears to have led to an increase in the prevalence of psychological distress among unemployed recipients, according to a nationally representative study following more than 52,000 working-age individuals from England, Wales, and Scotland over nine years between 2009-2018, published as part of an issue of The Lancet Public Health journal on income and health.

BU researchers: Pornography is not a 'public health crisis'
Researchers from the Boston University School of Public Health (BUSPH) have written an editorial in the American Journal of Public Health special February issue arguing against the claim that pornography is a public health crisis, and explaining why such a claim actually endangers the health of the public.

The Lancet Public Health: Ageism linked to poorer health in older people in England
Ageism may be linked with poorer health in older people in England, according to an observational study of over 7,500 people aged over 50 published in The Lancet Public Health journal.

Study: Public transportation use linked to better public health
Promoting robust public transportation systems may come with a bonus for public health -- lower obesity rates.

Read More: Public Health News and Public Health Current Events is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to