Heart risk assessment

Also called cardiovascular risk assessment, or a heart check

Is your 'heart age' younger or older than your actual age? A heart risk assessment will help you find out by building a risk profile based on factors such as your age, gender, cholesterol levels, smoking, blood pressure, family history and past history.

What is a heart risk assessment?

A heart risk assessment is an estimate of how likely you are to have a heart attack or stroke in the next five years. If you have a 10% risk, it means that if there were 100 people with the same risk as you, we'd expect 10 of them to have a heart attack or stroke in the next five years.

This is calculated by building a risk profile based on the following factors: 

  • age and gender
  • ethnicity
  • cholesterol levels
  • smoking history
  • blood pressure
  • family history
  • medical history - past or current heart problems, diabetes, stroke etc. 

Some of these you can change. Some you can't. The key message is you have an important role to play in your health and the choices you make every day do matter. Over time, what we eat, drink, do, and how we live increases or decreases our risk of heart disease and stroke.  

When do I need to have an assessment?

In general, a risk assessment is advised if you are:

  • male and aged 35 years or over if you have any of the risk factors in the list below.
  • male and aged 45 years or over if no risk factors. 
  • female and aged 45 years or over with any risk factors.
  • female and aged 55 years or over if no risk factors.

If you say 'yes' to any of the following questions, you should have a risk assessment 10 years earlier, ie, a man older than 35 years and a woman older than 45 years:

Assessing your risk of heart disease

A number of health details are needed to calculate your risk level for developing angina or blood vessel disease, or of having a heart attack or stroke in the next five years. Print out this factsheet and fill in the blank record sheet further below and use it to record your details. You will need to get your blood pressure and cholesterol level by visiting your doctor or other health professional.

What do the numbers mean?

You will often be given a CVDRA score eg. a CVDRA score of 20% means 20 out of 100 people (this is the same as one out of every 5 people) with this risk level are likely to have angina, a heart attack or stroke within the next 5 years. This is considered a high risk level and you would want to know more about what you can do to lower your overall cardiovascular risk and improve your heart age. 

Take a test

When you know your blood pressure and cholesterol you can take this test: Know Your Numbers Heart Age Calculator. It tells you 'how old' your heart is and what changes you can make to alter your heart risk in the future. 
(Updated version coming soon)

Your Heart Forecast - assess your heart age

By becoming smoke-free, or lowering your blood pressure, you can see how this change can lower your risk from the red zone and come back down into the orange or yellow zone. The more changes you make, the more likely you will be to get back down into the green zone. 

Record sheet

Information you need to find out your 'heart age' using the Heart Foundation's 'Know Your Numbers' website.

Date __/__/20__ __/__/20__ __/__/20__
Do you have diabetes?      
Do you smoke tobacco?      
*Cholesterol (TC:HDL ratio)      
*Blood pressure (systolic/diastolic)      
Have you had a heart attack, angina, or stroke?      

Risk category (%)


Abbreviations: TC; blood level of total cholesterol. HDL; blood level of high-density lipoprotein cholesterol “good cholesterol”.

Is your heart happy?

If you want to find out how happy your heart is, answer the following 11 questions to review your risk factors:

1)  Do you regularly eat unhealthy foods (eg, high in saturated fat)? Y / N
2)  Do you smoke cigarettes? Y / N
3)  Are you a male over 45 or a female over 55? Y / N
4)  Are you of Maori, Polynesian or Indian descent? Y / N
5)  Do you have diabetes? Y / N
6)  Have you had heart trouble or a stroke before? Y / N
7)  Do you have high blood pressure? Y / N
8)  Do you have high cholesterol? Y / N
9)  Is your waist >100cm (male) or >90cm (female)? Y / N
10)  Do you spend less than 30 minutes a day being physically active? Y / N
11)  Has anyone in your family (eg, a parent or sibling) had a heart attack or stroke? (Before the age of 65 for women, or 55 for men) Y / N

How did you score? 

The more times you answered 'Yes' the more risk factors you have. Discuss this with your doctor or nurse to see how you can reduce your risk and use the links to other sections of this website. 

Learn more

Your heart health planHeart Foundation website.

Credits: Heart Foundation of New Zealand, 2010. Reviewed By: Health Navigator Last reviewed: 18 Apr 2016