Framingham Risk Score

A score for predicting a person’s risk of heart disease based on the Framingham Heart Study, a large, long-term study performed in Framingham, Massachusetts. The Framingham Risk Score takes several factors into account, including age, sex, total cholesterol, HDL (“good”) cholesterol, tobacco use, and blood pressure. The score groups people based on their risk of developing heart disease within the next 10 years: Those in the “low risk” group have less than a 10% chance; those in the “intermediate risk” group have a 10% to 20% chance; and those in the “high risk” group have a risk greater than 20%. There are also separate risk scores, based on the Framingham Heart Study, for specific outcomes like stroke, heart attack, and atrial fibrillation (heart “flutter”).

People with certain medical conditions are automatically classified as “high risk.” Those include people with diabetes and those who have had a stroke or “ministroke,” bypass surgery or balloon angioplasty, kidney disease, familial hypercholesterolemia, peripheral artery disease, carotid artery disease, or an abdominal aortic aneurysm.

Fortunately, there are a number of steps anyone can take to lower his risk of heart disease:

  • Stop smoking, if you do.
  • Exercise regularly (at least 30 minutes most days of the week).
  • Follow a heart-healthy diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, and low in processed foods and added sugar.
  • Lose weight, if you’re overweight.
  • Treat risk factors such as high blood pressure and blood lipid disorders with appropriate medication, if necessary.
  • Speak with your health-care team about what you can do to lower your risk of heart disease.

Robert S. Dinsmoor is a medical writer and editor based in Massachusetts.

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