Saturday, February 18, 2006

When will you die?

Researchers at the San Francisco VA Medical Center have created an index that is 81 percent accurate in predicting the likelihood of death within four years for people 50 and older.

The index, which weighs different mortality risk factors according to a simple point system, is potentially useful to health care providers, policymakers, and researchers, say the study authors.

The information can be obtained using a 12-question form that "could be completed in a few minutes by a patient or medical office receptionist.

  • A patient who scores 0-5 has a less than four per cent risk of dying within four years.
  • A score of 6 to 9 points predicts a 15-per-cent risk of death.
  • 10 to 13 a 42-per-cent risk,
  • and 14 or more points a 64-per-cent risk of dying within four years.

The test could help doctors identify high-risk patients so that specific interventions could be targeted to them. (It's probably not useful for younger people, however, because four-year mortality is already low in people younger than 50.)

Here's the test:


1. Age 60-64: one point
65-69: two points
70-74: three points
75-79: four points
80-84: five points
85: seven points

2. Sex (Male/Female) Male: two points

3. a. Weight:
b. Height:
703 X (weight in pounds divided by height in inches) squared
BMI** less than 25: one point

4. Has a doctor ever told you that you have diabetes or high blood sugar? (Y/N)
Diabetes: two points

5. Has a doctor told you that you have cancer or a malignant tumour, excluding minor skin cancers? (Y/N)
Cancer: two points

6. Do you have a chronic lung disease that limits your usual activities or makes you need oxygen at home? (Y/N)
Lung Disease: two points

7. Has a doctor told you that you have congestive heart failure? (Y/N)
Heart Failure: two points

8. Have you smoked cigarettes in the past week? (Y/N) Smoke: two points

9. Because of a health or memory problem do you have any difficulty with bathing or showering? (Y/N)
Bathing: two points

10. Because of a health or memory problem, do you have any difficulty with managing your money -- such as paying your bills and keeping track of expenses? (Y/N)
Finances: two points

11. Because of a health problem do you have any difficulty with walking several blocks? (Y/N)
Walking: two points

12. Because of a health problem do you have any difficulty with pulling or pushing large objects such as a living room chair? (Y/N)
Push or Pull: one point

Total Points:


Surprisingly, and controversially, having a body mass index (BMI) of 25 -- the "overweight" category -- seemed to be protective, as long as the person doesn't have diabetes. On the other hand, a BMI less than 25 was associated with a shorter life expectancy.

** Simple BMI calculators are readily available on the Internet. Calculator


At 8:44 PM, February 19, 2006, Anonymous howard Bennett said...

In my case, I was diagnosed as having a small malignant lung nodule. The lobe containing it was taken out within 30 hours of diagnosis. It was classified as Class 1a, the best class to have for lung cancer. Lymph glands were all clear-no need for chemo. or radiation.

I consider myself "cured" as I believe so do my two doctors. Do I add to my score? If so, it moves me to the next category.

This test does not lend itself to this sort of self- diagnosis, unless it takes care of wording this more succintly.


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