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Simple score 'predicts risk of death' for middle-aged

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A simple score can be used to predict the risk of death for middle-aged adults in the UK, according to the Swedish researchers behind the idea.

They have developed a score that predicts an individual’s risk of dying within five years for people aged between 40 and 70 years old.

“This is the first study of its kind which is based on a very large study sample”

Erik Ingelsson

The score uses measures that can be obtained by simple questionnaires without any need for physical examination, such as self-rated health and usual walking speed.

It could potentially be used by clinicians to identify high-risk individuals for further treatment, suggest the study authors from the Karolinska Institutet in The Lancet.

To create the score, the researchers analysed data collected from 2006-10 on nearly half a million adults aged between 40 and 70 years from the UK Biobank.

They assessed the probability that 655 specific demographic, lifestyle, and health measurements could predict death from any cause and six specific causes, in men and women separately.

The results allowed the researchers to compare the predictive ability of a large number of health-related risk factors, which were formerly studied separately and using different populations.

Surprisingly, self-reported walking pace was a stronger predictor of death risk in both men and women than smoking habits and other lifestyle measurements, they said.

Self-rated overall health emerged as the single most powerful predictor of death in men, and previous cancer diagnosis the strongest predictor in women. Smoking habits were the strongest predictors of mortality from any cause.

Using these findings, the researchers then developed an easy-to-calculate risk score for an individual’s risk of dying in the next five years, based on the most predictive self-reported information, including 13 questions for men and 11 for women.

“We hope that our score might eventually enable doctors to quickly and easily identify their highest risk patients”

Andrea Ganna

The performance of the score was validated in 35,810 participants enrolled at two Scottish centres and was found to have around 80% accuracy in men and women.

Based on their findings, an interactive website has been developed where individuals can calculate their personalised five-year mortality risk and the age where the average mortality risk in the UK population was most similar to theirs.

Study co-author Professor Erik Ingelsson said the website allowed anybody in the UK between 40 and 70 to calculate their risk of dying within the next five years compared to the general population.

“This is the first study of its kind which is based on a very large study sample, and is not limited to specific populations, single types of risk, or requiring laboratory testing,” he said.

Study co-author Dr Andrea Ganna added that the score might eventually enable clinicians to easily identify their highest risk patients, but cautioned that more research was needed to confirm it.

“The fact that the score can be measured online in a brief questionnaire, without any need for lab tests or physical examination, is an exciting development,” she said.

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