Risk Calculators

As of the 23rd May 2022 this website is archived and will receive no further updates.

understandinguncertainty.org was produced by the Winton programme for the public understanding of risk based in the Statistical Laboratory in the University of Cambridge. The aim was to help improve the way that uncertainty and risk are discussed in society, and show how probability and statistics can be both useful and entertaining.

Many of the animations were produced using Flash and will no longer work.

Our intrepid head of the Understanding Uncertainty team, David Spiegelhalter, booked himself in to see the doctor. At least for purely research reasons we are delighted that we can make use of his newly acquired medical information.
He came out with a rather ominous status of having a 10% risk of heart disease within the next 10 years – a result from his doctor’s calculator.

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We'd been investigating the concept of risk calculators and David was curious to see how his results varied with other heart disease calculators. Here we also briefly explore the concepts of riskometers, deathometers and life-expectancy calculators.

A risk calculator will assess the chances of an event occurring. A cardiac disease risk calculator assesses the risk of you developing heart disease. In our search of this type of risk calculator alone, we encountered hundreds. The heart-disease risk calculators which we used had a few things in common. They may ask:

Your medical history, i.e. blood relatives’ cause of death or incidence of disease

Cholesterol levels (LDL, HDL)

Lifestyle questions, i.e. smoking habit, exercise regime, diet

Age, weight, gender

And some don’t need much information from you at all. These can be very funny.

So back to David. Yes, he’s a high achiever but other choices he makes now put him on a more even playing field, when it comes to heart disease at least. Take his attachment to a couple of drinks here and there, which may increase his chance of heart disease within the next ten years by %, according to this risk calculator (insert here). One of the very good calculators doesn't change the results no matter how much you drink. Most of us have likely read or heard about the studies demonstrating a couple of wine "units" a week may also be positive for our health and in fact proven to reduce cardiovascular disease risk. If you are interested on the topic of alcohol see this (alcohol and the middle classes etc. Insert link here).

Also, fish oils have been been under controversy, as with most herbal supplements, as to whether they contribute to reduced cardiovascular disease risk. One online calculator website ( ) provides a recent study, also published in The Lancet, indicating some positive results, while other online calculator website has statatements warning against supplements ().

With smoking at least, they can all agree. Smoking will affect your risk of heart disease by increasing it by 4%-11%. This risk increases as you get older and continue smoking, and as one put it, reducing your lifespan by 21 days (Day4Death Calculator).

If you're interested in learning more about how your cardiac disease risk is calculated, continue on to Calculating the Risk, or try out some of the risk calculators yourself.

Day for Death
Results: David is predicted to die on Sunday, December 18th, 2044, at age of 91. There is a 43.10% chance that he will die in a nursing home and 33.70% chance he will die as an in-patient. There is a 39.20% chance he will die of heart disease, 11.70% chance of malignant cancer, and 10.20% chance of stroke, as well as 1.40% chance of blood poisoning. If he dies on December 18th he would have shared his death with actor, Chris Farley, from Saturday Night Live.

Disease Risk Index
Results: David’s heart disease risk is “very much below average” but not as low as the possible risk. Suggestions to lower his risk even more are given, such as eating more fish and nuts and decreasing his total cholesterol. To be very much below average means that he doesn’t have a many risk factors but they are careful to say it is just an estimate and does not mean he’ll never get heart disease.
Disease Risk Index – Prostate Cancer
Results: David’s risk is below average. They’re suggestion for lowering that risk is to eat 5 servings of tomato-based foods a week.

Coronary Disease Risk Prediction Score Sheet for Men based on Total Cholesterol Level
Results: David’s point total was 6, indicating his 10 year CHD risk is 10%
Coronary Disease Risk Prediction Score Sheet for Men based on LDL Cholesterol Level
Results: David’s point total was 5, indicating a 10 year CHD Risk of 9%

Results: David’s real age is_
Online Clinical Calculator for Coronary Heart Disease Risk Calculator – medical College of Wisconsin
Results: David’s results on a point system were 6, indicating a 10% risk of heart disease in 10 years.

PROCAM Risk Calculators – International Task for Prevention of Coronary heart Disease
Results: David’s risk of developing a heart attack or dying from an acute coronary event within the next 10 years is 5%, or 3.8% if the score is calculated by including sugar level.

Heart Attack Risk Calculator – Prolipid
Results: David’s risk of getting a heart attack within the next 10 years is 9%. They point out that his two risk factors are hypertension and advanced age. The calculator states that David is in the medium-risk category and that for a man in his age group with optimal risk factors, the risk is still 6%.

Heart to Heart
Results: David’s chances of having heart disease in the next 10 years are 11%. The compare and state that a 54 year old male with no risk factors has a 7% average chance of having heart disease in the next 10 years.

LSHTM Cardiovascular Risk Score Calculator
Results: David’s predicted risk of death due to a cardiovascular cause in the next 5 years is 1.41%, which is compared to the average risk of 1.69% for a man of similar age. This calculator places him in the “average” risk category.

University of Maryland Heart Center Heart Disease Risk Calculator
Results: David’s answers indicate his “actual risk of heart disease is 7%”. They go further to say “of 100 people who answered similarly, 7 are predicted to experience a major coronary hearth event within the next 10 years.

Results: David’s results could only be calculated with a systolic blood pressure of 150, not the actual 148 that it is, and a cholesterol level of 5.0 or 6.0, not the 5.8 it actually is. His “heartscore”, the 10 ten-year CVD risk, is not much affected by this, remaining at 4% with either.

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