The metabolic crystal ball has been developed in the hope that it will help patients identify risk, make lifestyle changes, and avoid making themselves ill before it is too late.
The free tool, which is available for anyone to use, was developed by the University of Virginia’s School of Medicine and University of Florida, to address what they saw as a gap in the current diagnostic process.
Traditionally, doctors have predicted cardiovascular disease, type two diabetes and stroke risk by looking at five factors - obesity, high blood pressure, high fasting triglycerides, low levels of good cholesterol and high fasting blood sugar.
Patients meeting at least three of these criteria are diagnosed as having metabolic syndrome and told they are at elevated risk of future problems.
However, Mark DeBoer, MD of the UVA School of Medicine says that this framework is too black and white and doesn’t take into account factors of ethnicity, race and gender, which also play a part in risk.
For example, African-American men are at high risk of both cardiovascular disease and diabetes, but are unlikely to be diagnosed using this system.
Instead DeBoer’s tool calculates a score based on age, waistline measurement, gender, ethnicity, triglycerides, HDL, blood pressure and fasting glucose.
And it works.
A small study has found that the online calculator’s predictions lined up well with actual cases of cardiovascular disease, and found that the tool was a better risk predictor than the individual factors alone.
DeBoer, said: “The hope is that a scoring system like this could be incorporated in the electronic medical record to calculate someone’s risk and that information could be provided both to the physician, who then realizes there is an elevated risk, and to the patient, who hopefully can start taking some preventative steps.”