Harvard Heart Letter

A new crystal ball

Calculating your chances of having a heart attack or stroke, developing peripheral artery disease, or dying from cardiovascular disease sounds like ghoulish business. Yet it can be reassuring if your risk is low. And it can be a lifesaver if a higher number prompts you to make healthy changes.

The earliest tool for estimating heart disease risk was developed by researchers with the pioneering Framingham Heart Study. It helped predict an individual's chances of developing coronary artery disease, the potentially deadly accumulation of cholesterol-filled plaque in arteries that supply the heart muscle with oxygen and nutrients. That tool was followed by others that covered stroke, heart failure, or other individual cardiovascular conditions.

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