A calculator for your heart health and diabetes risk

Dr Ben Kelly Head of Preventative Medicine Ben Kelly is a specialist in preventative medicine and leads the clinical research and digital health agendas for Nuffield Health. More by this author
Quite often it can be difficult to judge what effect any given lifestyle choice has on long-term health and for many of us the approach can be 'ignorant bliss' - but it doesn't have to be that way.

Despite there being no crystal ball to predict what the future holds for each of us, we are able to apply advancements in mathematics to large-scale population data sets to gain some validated insight.

The Nuffield Health Heart Health and Diabetes Risk Calculator applies this very logic. We are able to accurately estimate 10 year risk for all cause cardiovascular mortality as well as type 2 diabetes risk by taking in to account an individual's clinical metrics and mapping that across longitudinal data sets. 

According to Diabetes.co.uk, the current number of people estimated to be diagnosed with diabetes in the UK is 3.5 million, with a further 549,000 yet to be diagnosed. Meanwhile Heart UK lists coronary heart disease as the UK's number one killer.

Certain inputs within this calculator drive risk scores significantly. For example, by indicating that you are a smoker your risk score will increase dramatically and conversely if you quit smoking you will see the risk drop. However when looking at the other lifestyle-driven metrics, such as blood pressure and cholesterol, small fluctuations will have minor impact when viewed in isolation. What this calculator indicates quite clearly is that you must view the body as a whole, and to reduce your risk over a 10-year period you have to focus on all areas of health and wellbeing and not simply isolated variables. With this in mind we would recommend those actively pursuing lifestyle change use the calculator every three months. For those looking for a snapshot of their health at any given point longer intervals would be more suited. 

Currently this calculator is configured for individual users usage, however there is huge potential in other areas - not least in the corporate space. Corporate Wellbeing is an area Nuffield Health knows all too well and specifically understands the difficulties in monitoring the wellbeing of the workforce. According to the Financial Times, work-related absenteeism cost the UK economy £32bn in 2013 alone, with a majority of that being made up of preventable conditions. To take a truly preventative approach it is important that corporate management are able to execute some level of prediction. Of equal importance is how to resource wellbeing intervention, which is particularly difficult for a distributed workforce.

Further development of the Heart Health and Diabetes Risk Calculator will go some way to addressing the aforementioned hurdles. Firstly, by having an entire workforce complete the calculator on a regular basis, be that automatically via Nuffield Health Health MOTs and assessments or via personal entry, we can generate a geographical heat map of risk. This can be at the local level (single site, broken down by age group, gender and department) all the way through to the larger distributed workforces that are located nationwide or even internationally. On a monthly basis we will know how those risk patterns shift, the key drivers of the risk and an overview of selected population changes (i.e. new users, returning users etc). 

With this level of detail, not only does the corporate organisation know what the key health risks are within the business but also where they lie locally or beyond. This means that wellbeing resource can be positioned toward the greatest or most urgent area of need in order to be preventative. This will lead to reduced absenteeism and, ultimately, economic benefit.

Thursday 29 September 2016

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