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App can help doctors calculate heart risks

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The next time you have a general physical, you might be told to consider taking a cholesterol-lowering statin — even if you never had a heart attack, don’t have diabetes, and don’t even have high cholesterol. That’s thanks to a new app hitting doctors’ iPads and smartphones this month that calculates your 10-year heart attack and stroke risk. It was developed by the American College of Cardiology and the American Heart Association, the same folks who issued the new cholesterol treatment guideline that some cardiologists predicted would double the number of Americans taking statins from 36 million to 72 million.

The guideline urges physicians to prescribe statins such as atorvastatin (Lipitor) and rosuvastatin (Crestor) to anyone between 40 and 75 years of age whose 10-year risk is 7.5 percent or greater. This is based on a new calculation tool, featured in the app, which considers such factors as age, cholesterol level, and blood pressure.

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Two heart researchers from Brigham and Women’s hospital tested the tool and published a paper last November calling it inaccurate, which the guideline authors disputed.

Dr. Roger Blumenthal, director of the Johns Hopkins Ciccarone Center for the Prevention of Heart Disease, tested the app and said it was very “user friendly” and will help foster conversations between doctors and high-risk patients. D.K.

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