A simple "risk score" might help doctors determine whether people with heart disease are at particular risk for a future heart attack or stroke.
The researchers analysed data from more than 20 000 heart disease patients in order to determine how age, weight, heart rate, blood pressure and medical history affected the risk of heart attack, stroke or death.
Each factor was given a value. A total score of zero to four indicated low risk, a score of five to six was medium risk, and a score of seven or higher was considered high risk. Over two years, the rate of heart attack, stroke or death in the low-risk group was less than 3%, compared with 6.5% in the medium-risk group and 18% in the high-risk group.
Until now, doctors have had no way of determining which of their heart-disease patients were most at risk of a heart attack, stroke or death. This new scoring system could potentially help them settle on the best course of care for individual patients, according to the University of Florida researchers.
"Collectively, this simple information carries important prognostic information in this group of patients," Dr Anthony Bavry, an assistant professor of cardiology in the College of Medicine, said in a university news release.
"When cardiologists see patients in the clinic, we often lump them together in regards to thinking about their risk of a cardiovascular event," Bavry said. "We wanted to create a simple risk score that could be determined with information already available at the clinic."
The study was published recently in the Journal of the American Heart Association.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more about heart disease.