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Internet “crystal ball” to predict heart disease

Digital health platforms such as the diagnostics crystal ball provide new opportunities for patients

A newly developed online “crystal ball”  purports to predict a person’s risk of developing illnesses such as heart disease. A user can input lifestyle and metabolic measuremenets such as height, weight and daily exercise levels. The “crystal ball” then takes the information and uses it to predict the likelihood of future illnesses and a range of metabolic conditions. Though not entirely accurate and by no means a substitute for a qualified doctor, it provides a useful tool for reflection on lifestyle choices and potential changes that can be made.

“This boils it down to telling a patient, on the risk spectrum, you are here, and you’re in a position where we’re worried you’re going to have a cardiovascular event in the next 10 years”, says Mark DeBoer, of the University of Virginia, U.S.

The more information provided, the more accurate a prediction that can be made. The metabolic crystal ball uses the information used in a doctor’s diagnosis, obesity, high fasting triglycerides, high blood pressure, low HDL (good) cholesterol and high fasting blood sugar. It also expands on this by adding the information of a user’s race, ethnicity and gender.

By using the same diagnostic methods as a doctor, the programme can be assumed to be at least fairly accurate. The online tool’s intended purpose is to inform, by placing the user on a scale that estimates potential risks it highlights to them that, for example, in a ten year period they are at high risk of suffering a heart attack. This is potentially enough to sway people to make suitable changes to diet and exercise.

India is currently facing an issue heart attacks are reaching epidemic proportions. With a death occurring due to heart attacks in India every 33 seconds, it is a great public health concern to the country. Indians are seen to be at risk of heart attacks 10 years earlier than those in western nations, and even young people have been shown to be at higher risk.

The increase in heart attacks as well as other metabolic disorders can largely be attributed to rapid lifestyle changes occurring in industrialised areas of India. The rise in sedentary jobs has led to obesity rates rising, typically in urban settings. Alongside this comes a corresponding rise in heart disease.

Online tools it increases the access to diagnostics services, particularly in the urban areas with rapid internet access, in which more people are likely to be at risk of heart disease. Though a doctor’s appointment regarding any potential condition is preferable, no complaints can be made of the creation of a helpful, and above all, free, online diagnostics tool.

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