Want to calculate your risk of heart attack or stroke? This new online tool will help

Ottawa researchers say their new online calculator can give an idea of a person's chance of having a stroke or a heart attack within the next five years.

Ottawa researchers launch online calculator to predict chances of cardiovascular disease

Dr. Doug Manuel from The Ottawa Hospital says a new online calculator can predict a person's chance of stroke. (The Ottawa Hospital)

Ottawa researchers say their new online calculator can give an idea of a person's chance of having a stroke or a heart attack within the next five years.

Their research, published Monday in the Canadian Medical Association Journal, says the calculator lets people accurately predict their risk of both hospitalization or death due to cardiovascular disease.

If the calculator finds a person's risk to be, for example, five per cent, it means that five in 100 people with similar risk factors will experience a serious cardiovascular event in the next half decade.

Doctors … don't necessarily ask about lifestyle factors that could put you at risk of a heart attack and stroke.- Dr. Doug Manuel, senior scientist at The Ottawa Hospital

"In cardiovascular disease, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure," said Dr. Doug Manuel, the paper's lead author and a senior scientist at the Ottawa Hospital.

"We hope this tool can help people — and their care team — with better information about healthy living and options for reducing their risk of heart attack and stroke."

The calculator was based on data from Statistics Canada's health surveys and is available at an online health calculator website called Project Big Life.

Risk number based on healthy living 

While the risk for cardiovascular disease — one of the leading causes of death in Canada — is commonly assessed by measuring blood pressure and cholesterol levels, the new calculator bases its assessment on healthy living choices. 

Using survey data from more than 100,000 Canadians, the calculator analyzes factors that include alcohol consumption, diet, physical activity and whether the person is a smoker.

The calculator also takes into account a person's stress levels, their sense of belonging, their ethnicity, immigration status, socioeconomic status, education levels, and whether they already have diabetes or high blood pressure.

It then offers up a measurement of the person's "heart age." 

"A lot of people are interested in healthy living, but often we don't have that discussion in the doctor's office," said Manuel, who is also a professor at the University of Ottawa.

"Doctors will check your blood pressure and cholesterol levels, but they don't necessarily ask about lifestyle factors that could put you at risk of a heart attack and stroke."

A new online tool calculates your risk in the hopes of getting people to change their ways. 6:41