The new tool, called the Astronaut Cardiovascular Health and Risk Modification (Astro-CHARM) calculator, predicts who between the ages of 40 and 65 are at risk of suffering a heart attack or stroke. It was developed as a collaboration between UT Southwestern researchers and the National Space Biomedical Research Institution (NSBRI) to aid in precise cardiovascular risk assessment for astronauts and the general population.
“We found that the Astro-CHARM tool significantly improves cardiovascular risk prediction. It will be an important step forwarding decision-making for preventative treatments in the general population for people in midlife,” Dr. Amit Khera, a cardiologist and professor of internal medicine and director of the university’s preventative cardiology program, said in a press release. “Cardiovascular risk assessment can also be critical in younger populations, particularly those in high-risk occupations.”
Astro-CHARM uses coronary artery calcium measurements and combines them with traditional risk factors like blood pressure and cholesterol to predict heart attack and stroke risk. The online tool can be found on the Astro-CHARM website.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that heart disease is the leading cause of death in the U.S. Approximately 610,000 people die from it per year.
“This study is a perfect example of how NASA (and NSBRI) sponsored research helps both astronauts and the general population on Earth. The study was inspired by a critical question asked by flight surgeons and answered quickly by partnership with academia,” senior author on the study and cardiologist Dr. Benjamin Levine said.
In the study, risk factors like race/ethnicity, history of cardiovascular diseases, medication usage, family history or myocardial infarction and smoking status were self-reported. Standard measurement methods were used to get information on height, weight, blood pressure, plasma lipids, body mass index and glucose. The researchers on the project also took into account a patient’s personal and/or family history of diabetes and myocardial infarction.
The study had 7,382 participants with an average age of 51. The group was 45% female and 55% non-white. The UT Southwestern researchers gathered data from the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis, the Dallas Heart Study and the Prospective Army Coronary Calcium Project. The study was independently validated with the Framingham Heart Study Offspring and Third Generation cohorts.
The research was published in the journal Circulation.