‘Best ignored’: Doctor warns against online heart age test

A free online heart age test that calculates a user’s cardiovascular age and predicts their life expectancy is being encouraged in the U.K. by Public Health England (PHE). But, as honorary vice president of the British Medical Association (BMA) Kailash Chand wrote in the Guardian this week, not everyone is convinced the test is beneficial.

Chand, who’s worked as a general practitioner (GP) since 1983, said the test calculates “true heart age” by focusing on known risk factors like blood pressure and cholesterol, then generates advice for its individual users and predicts the age they might have a heart attack. If someone’s heart age is higher than their actual age, they’re encouraged to undergo testing, visit a pharmacy and schedule a trip to their GP.

Though PHE has claimed 80 percent of the 2 million people who have taken the test have received troubling results, Chand said the organization doesn’t have any backing from the BMA or other professional groups.

“GPs and their practice teams are already under immense pressure as they try to meet surging demand from a growing population with a shrinking workforce and dwindling resources,” he wrote. “If practices are now inundated with patients seeking advice after being understandably alarmed by the results from such a rudimentary test, they will find themselves stretched even more thinly.”

Chand said budget cuts tend to target general practice and preventive programs, which, if funded well, could actually prevent more admissions.

“PHE would do better to focus its efforts on more relevant methods of reducing risk of heart disease and stroke by reflecting the totality of evidence free of conflicts of interest,” he said. “Until then, this test, the test results and the advice offered to those who take the test are all best ignored.”

Read Chand’s full editorial at the link below.