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Last Updated: Thursday, 8 June 2006, 01:01 GMT 02:01 UK
Tool to predict ethnic heart risk
Statins reduce risk of heart disease
Statins can be used to prevent heart disease
Doctors have developed a better way of estimating heart disease risk in people from different ethnic backgrounds.

Risk calculators are used to assess a person's risk of stroke and heart attacks over the next 10 years so they can be offered preventive treatment.

But some ethnic groups are wrongly assessed because methods are based on data from white populations, say a team led by Bristol University.

A new calculator published in Heart works out risk in seven ethnic groups.

Current risk scores, which take into account factors such as cholesterol and blood pressure, were developed on the back of the Framingham heart study which was done 20 years ago in the US.

But it is unclear how relevant the data is to the British public, particularly minority ethnic groups.

"Once the blood pressure and cholesterol measurements have been taken, the nurse or doctor can go online and plug in the numbers to get a more accurate risk score for that individual"
Dr Peter Brindle, study leader

Some people might not be picked up as high risk and denied life-saving treatment while others may be taking drugs unnecessarily as their risk has been over-estimated.

The team looked at data from 3,778 men and 4,544 women aged 35-54.

Risks were assessed for people of Indian, Pakistani, Bangladeshi, South Asian, Chinese, Black Caribbean and Black African origin

Risk calculator

They then used the data to create the calculator which adjusts the score on the basis of their ethnic background.

Dr Peter Brindle, lead author and research fellow at Bristol University, said: "It provides a much more realistic assessment of the risk of having heart disease and stroke within a 10-year period, faced by an individual from one of these groups."

Professor Peter Weissberg, Medical Director of the British Heart Foundation, said: "We have known for some time that some ethnic groups are at particularly high risk of cardiovascular disease and that applying the conventional rules to predict their future risk of a heart attack was probably underestimating that risk."

Dr Rubin Minhas, cardiovascular chair of the South Asian Health Foundation, added: "We feel that this new tool is an improvement and will lead to better assessment of different ethnic groups that has not been possible before."

But Professor Paul Durrington from the University of Manchester, who recently developed a risk calculator for the Joint British Societies (JBS) said current methods were accurate.

"I think it is misleading to suggest that this programme is a significant advance on the JBS cardiovascular risk charts and the cardiovascular risk assessor programme.

"Like Brindle's methods, these are based on equations from the Framingham heart study and they already adjust risk up by 1.5 times for people from the Indian sub-continent.

"This method adjusts downwards for Afro-Caribbean and Chinese people which is potentially dangerous for these communities because they have high rates of hypertension and cerebral haemorrhage."

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