A diagnostic test has been developed that can help predict the future risk of cardiovascular disease for a teen. The test accounts for many risk factors for heart disease and stroke. It can be adapted by physicians to assess teens' future risk and to encourage healthy behaviors that could prevent heart disease.
The test was developed by researcher at the University of Virginia Children's Hospital Department of Pediatrics, the University of West Virginia School of Public Health, and Cincinnati Children's Hospital.
The test relies on an evaluation of metabolic syndrome, which is a grouping of conditions including increased blood pressure, high blood sugar levels, excessive body fat around the abdomen and waist, and abnormal cholesterol levels. Metabolic syndrome increases the risk of cardiovascular disease. The test takes into account variables that are specific both for race and gender. It is able to assess changes in metabolic syndrome severity in a person over time and creates a specific number predicting risk.
Cardiovascular disease is caused primarily by risk factors that can be changed; the disease is largely preventable. These risk factors include high blood pressure, high cholesterol, obesity, physical inactivity, diabetes, unhealthy diet, and smoking. The only risk factor that cannot be changed is genetics.
In creating the test, researchers looked at data from children who were enrolled in a study in the 1970s that assessed body mass index (BMI), blood pressure, fasting triglycerides, cholesterol levels, and fasting glucose. The children were followed an average of 49.6 years. A high correlation was found between the metabolic severity score for those children and for their later development of cardiovascular disease and diabetes.
Previous diagnostic tests have been only been able to say if a person either has or does not have metabolic syndrome. The new test creates a scale that shows the degree to which a teen is at risk.
The research has been described in articles in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology and the journal Diabetologia.