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Using ECG to predict cardiac risk

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Electrocardiography (ECG) may be helpful in measuring the risk of cardiovascular disease in asymptomatic individuals, according to a study led by Amit J. Shah, assistant professor of epidemiology. With nearly half of sudden cardiac deaths occurring in people who were unaware of having heart disease, researchers aimed to derive and validate a cardiovascular disease equation based primarily on ECG metrics.

The team used data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, in which approximately 10,000 community-based adults ages 40-74 years were followed for cardiovascular events. From these data, they derived and validated a risk equation based on a person’s age, sex, and three ECG metrics: heart rate, T-axis, and QT interval.

“Although ECGs are normally used to diagnose present-day heart disease in individuals believed to be at risk, many asymptomatic patients with normal ECGs may have electrocardiographic signs of disease that could predict future risk,” explains Shah. “We believe that this is a potential added benefit of the ECG: to help screen for high-risk individuals and ultimately augment preventive efforts in clinical settings.”

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