Calculating your heart attack risk

The original tool for estimating an individual's heart attack risk was the Framingham score. It uses six items — age, gender, total cholesterol, HDL cholesterol, smoking status, and systolic blood pressure — to calculate the odds of having a heart attack over the next 10 years. An interdisciplinary team at the Harvard School of Public Health built a more extensive tool called Your Disease Risk (now housed at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis). In addition to gauging your chances of having a heart attack — and offering tips on reducing your risk — it does the same thing for having a stroke or developing cancer, diabetes, or osteoporosis. The new kid on the block is the Reynolds Risk Score. It adds two important pieces of information to the Framingham score — family history of heart disease and the results of a C-reactive protein (CRP) test. Two new studies (Ridker, New England Journal of Medicine 2008 and Wilson, Circulation: Cardiovascular Outcomes and Quality 2008) show that adding data about CRP refines and improves the Framingham score. (Locked) More »

January 2009 references and further reading

Ridker PM, Danielson E, Fonseca FA, et al. Rosuvastatin to prevent vascular events in men and women with elevated c-reactive protein. New England Journal of Medicine 2008; published at on November 9, 2008 (10.1056/NEJMoa0807646) A terrific article on the connection between inflammation and atherosclerosis was written by Dr. Peter Libby, a professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and chief of cardiology at Brigham and Women's Hospital. It appeared in the May 2002 issue of Scientific American, which the magazine reposted after the JUPITER results were published. (Locked) More »

Links to resources for creating a personal health record

Making a personal health record can give you and your doctors a complete picture of your health. It can prevent medical errors or reduce duplicate tests. In an emergency, it can provide vital information that may not be immediately available from your doctors. A good general resource is, a Web site sponsored by the American Health Information Management Association. A personal health record can store everything from basic information about you to copies of x-rays and CT scans. At minimum it should contain: your name, date of birth, and vital statistics like height and weight (Locked) More »

Searching for health information

Searching for health information is one of the top things people do on the World Wide Web. Some want more information than they can get from their doctor or nurse. Others want to investigate a symptom, find a new doctor, or track down a new treatment. If you are new to this, the vast amount of information on the Web can be like drinking from a fire hose. Harvard Heart Letter editor Patrick Skerrett demonstrates some good places to start. (Locked) More »

Editors' note

The editors of the Harvard Heart Letter introducean issue focused on acquiring new knowledge in order to improve your health. (Locked) More »

Nine tips for a healthier 2009

Start the year with these tips for heart care and healthier living. Suggestions include learning CPR, reducing stress, establishing an advance care directive and choosing a health care proxy. (Locked) More »

Observing JUPITER

The results of a large trial suggest that people with LDL cholesterol in the normal range but with a high C-reactive protein level may benefit from taking a statin. This may lead to increased use of the CRP to test for heart disease. More »

Make your health information personal

Gathering all your health records and vital information in one place can streamline your care and help doctors in the event of an emergency. Several web sites now offer ways to simplify the online storage of health information. (Locked) More »

Changing picture of atherosclerosis

The medical view of atherosclerosis is changing from the traditional one of arteries blocked by plaque to a more encompassing one, with inflammation as the main cause and an emphasis on stopping it before it even starts. (Locked) More »

Ask the doctor: Is bundle branch block serious?

I had an electrocardiogram in preparation for minor surgery. My doctor told me it showed that I have right bundle branch block. Neither he nor my cardiologist are worried about it, but I am. Is this serious? (Locked) More »