U.S. researchers have successfully developed a mobile app that can predict an individual’s risk for heart disease. Their study found out that high-risk individuals sought necessary medication after using the app.
About 18 Million American Adults Have Coronary Artery Disease (CAD)
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) suggests around 18 million American adults suffer from corona artery disease (CAD). CAD, the most common heart disease, manifests through the hardening and narrowing of arteries that feed the heart muscles. CAD-related death statistics in the U.S. totaled more than 300,000 annually in the U.S. alone. If doctors and medical professionals can use an app to predict heart disease risk, it could save lives.
To help reduce the annual death rate due to CAD, doctors prescribe statins such as atorvastatin and simvastatin. They combine these with other drugs that reduce bloodstream levels of cholesterol and other fat-related molecules known as lipids. Still, estimates say that in the U.S. alone, a large portion of the population is at intermediate risk for CAD. Almost half of men and around 10 percent of women aged 45 and 65 years old are at risk. Ironically, only one-third of these people at risk take lipid-lowering drugs.
The Smartphone App, MyGeneRank, and How It Can Help Predict Heart Disease Risk
Using MyGeneRank, a mobile app developed and launched in 2017, the researchers entered the genetic information of 721 participants, provided by genetic testing company 23andMe. They then produced a CAD risk score based on the DNA data of the participants. The study found that participants with high-risk scores were more likely to start using medications than those with low-risk scores. High-risk individuals tend to use statins and other cholesterol-lowering therapies.
The MyGeneRank app informed the participants of their risk scores. The app is available for both Android and iOS devices. Through the use of MyGeneRank, the researchers said that they now have a scalable method that can urge high-risk individuals to seek medical advice and get lipid-lowering medications when needed. This will then lower the rate of CAD and heart attacks.
Evan Muse, MD, Ph.D., a cardiologist and lead for cardiovascular genomics at the Scripps Research Translational Institute as well as first author of the research, said:
We now have the opportunity to integrate a person’s genetics into their cardiovascular health assessment to help them better understand their individualized risk and empower them to make the necessary modifications — including the addition of statin therapy — to their risk factor optimization plans.
Future Directions and Follow Up Study
With the success of their initial findings, the Scripps Research team conducting the pilot study plan to do a follow-up study with larger and longer-term studies of CAD risk-scoring apps. They will also include clinicians in the follow-up study and will record differences in cardiovascular health outcomes such as heart attacks.