Smartphone app that predicts heart disease risk could lower death rate


American researchers have successfully developed a mobile application capable of predicting an individual’s risk of heart disease. Their study found that high-risk people searched for needed medications after using the app.

About 18 million American adults have coronary artery disease (CAD)

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) suggests that approximately 18 million American adults have coronary heart disease (CAD). CAD, the most common heart disease, is manifested by the hardening and narrowing of the arteries that supply the heart muscles. CAD-related death statistics in the United States totaled more than 300,000 per year in the United States alone. If doctors and healthcare professionals can use an app to predict heart disease risk, it could save lives.

To help reduce the annual death rate from coronary artery disease, doctors prescribe statins such as atorvastatin and simvastatin. They combine them with other drugs that lower blood levels of cholesterol and other fat-related molecules called lipids. Yet estimates indicate that in the United States alone, a large portion of the population is at intermediate risk for coronary artery disease. Nearly half of men and about 10% of women between the ages of 45 and 65 are at risk. Ironically, only a third of those at risk take lipid-lowering drugs.

The smartphone app, MyGeneRank and how it can help predict heart disease risk

Use of MyGeneRank, a mobile application developed and launched in 2017, researchers entered genetic information from 721 participants, provided by genetic testing company 23andMe. They then produced a CAD risk score based on the participants’ DNA data. The study found that participants with high-risk scores were more likely to start using medication than those with low-risk scores. People at high risk tend to use statins and other cholesterol-lowering treatments.

By predicting a person’s risk of heart disease in an iPhone app, researchers hope to save lives.

The MyGeneRank app informed participants of their risk scores. The app is available for Android and iOS devices. Through the use of MyGeneRank, the researchers said they now have a scalable method that can prompt high-risk individuals to seek medical attention and obtain lipid-lowering medication when needed. This will then reduce the rate of coronary artery disease and heart attacks.

Evan Muse, MD, Ph.D., cardiologist and head of cardiovascular genomics at the Scripps Research Translational Institute as well as first author of the research, said:

We now have the ability to incorporate a person’s genetics into their cardiovascular health assessment to help them better understand their individual risk and empower them to make necessary changes, including adding statin therapy, to his risk factor optimization plans.

Future directions and follow-up study

With the success of their initial findings, the Scripps research team is leading the pilot study plan to do a follow-up study with larger, longer-term studies of CAD risk scoring applications. They will also include clinicians in the follow-up study and record differences in cardiovascular health outcomes such as heart attacks.

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