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Heart age calculator should come with a warning

Carl Heneghan
Last edited 28th June 2009
The Heart age calculator that was announced in the press this week sounds like a good idea; however it should come with a health care warning.  We tried it out this week and entered that we were a female with diabetes, 60 years old and had recently given up smoking. The problem is, it came back with a heart age of 80. It doesn’t take account recent blood sugar levels, exercise or diet. Therefore it is rather discouraging and given there is no way of reducing the heart age what is the point. In fact it may lead to increases anxiety and discourage healthy behaviour. This is totally unlike the excellent lung age study in the BMJ, the STEP2Quit  randomized trial. Telling smokers their lung age significantly improved the likelihood of them quitting smoking, but the mechanism by which the intervention worked was unclear. This was not a new idea as the concept was first developed in 1985 as a way of making spirometry data easier to understand and as  a potential tool to show smokers the premature ageing of their lungs. The success of this type of feedback depends on the prospect of gain rather than negative messages about costs or disadvantage. This is the exact problem of passing interventions off as useful without the appropriate evidence. If anyone can tell me what the gain is of undertaking the heart age and what one is supposed to do about a negative result then I’ll change the title of this blog. By the way my heart age is 5 years above my real age, but it doesn’t take account my alcohol intake, that must be worth the loss of a few years!   By the way, if you totally want to demoralize yourself, try calculating  your life expectancy.


I agree with your point of view, this test really should come with a warning… still it’s a nice test as long as people keep perspective of its educative purpose. I also enjoyed the lung age study and life expectancy calculator! I’m a fan of this kind of coffee break edu-tainment… as a matter of fact, there’s a simple but revealing anxiety quiz you may also be interested in. Enjoy!

Heart age calculator doesn't always work

The heart age calculator broke the first time I tried it!

I entered: 65 year old female, 5' 4", 80kg, 34" waist, no heart disease, no diabetes, family history of heart disease, mother at 84 years old, father no heart disease.

The programme came back with the message that the highlighted questions were incomplete. No questions were highlighted, and the system wouldn't go on. I tried again with a test male, and it worked. So I tried it again with a test female and it broke again. Then I got bored!


Bored with the heart caclulator

Sounds like the heart calculator is probably pretty useless beyond a certain age, probably around 75 as most conventional risk prediction tools dont go over 75 years any how

Cheers Carl

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