How a Routine Blood Test May Measure Your Future Risk for Chronic Disease

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Chronic diseases and conditions such as type 2 diabetes, obesity, heart disease, stroke, cancer, and arthritis are among the most common and preventable health problems. More than half of the adult population suffers from one or more of these chronic diseases, and this number is projected to increase by 40 percent in the next 10 years.

What if there was a way to predict which people are at risk for developing a chronic disease, before it even happens?

A new study by researchers at Intermountain Medical Center Heart Institute in Salt Lake City, found that combining information from routine bloods tests and a patients age, can be an excellent measure to determine if you are at high risk in developing a chronic disease.

The simple risk score, termed the Intermountain Chronic Disease Risk Score, or ICHRON, may be able to predict the first diagnosis of the most common chronic diseases, which include diabetes, kidney failure coronary artery disease, heart attack, heart failure, peripheral vascular disease, atrial fibrillation, stroke, dementia, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) within three years.

In the study, the ICHRON prediction model was about 78 percent accurate in identifying patients who will be diagnosed with a chronic disease within three years of testing.

Results of the study were recently presented at the American College of Cardiology’s 66th annual Scientific Session in Washington, D.C.

“Our goal was to create a clinical tool that can be used to help identify patients who are at a higher risk for a chronic disease diagnosis and therefore need more personalized care. For example, if the patient received a high ICHRON score, the clinician could plan to see the patient more frequently or be more aggressive with treatments. Yet, if the patient had a low ICHRON score, they could potentially be seen less often or not order a test that they were debating on ordering,” said Heidi May, PhD, a cardiovascular epidemiologist with the Intermountain Medical Center Heart Institute and lead author of the study.

The score was developed based on the data in one group of primary care patients and then tested again in another group, and it is gender-specific. Among the more than 144,000 patients studied, seven percent of women and nine percent of men were diagnosed with at least one chronic disease in the next three years, most commonly diabetes or coronary artery disease.

Among women, those with a high ICHRON score were 11 times more likely to be diagnosed with a chronic disease than those with a low score. Women with a moderate score were three times more likely to be diagnosed. Men with a high score were 14 times more likely to be diagnosed than those with a low score, and those with a moderate score more than five times more likely to be diagnosed.

This simple risk score is an exciting, effective, and efficient tool that can be calculated at a low expense to help patients take a preventative measure towards their future healthcare.