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Simple, inexpensive tool helps predict mortality risks

A short survey that asks patients to assess their walking ability could be helpful in predicting a person's risk of cardiovascular disease, as well as mortality risks from any cause. That's according to a Stanford study recently published online in the journal Circulation.

The Walking Impairment Questionnaire, also known as the WIQ, is currently used to predict risks of peripheral artery disease, a narrowing of the arteries that causes limited circulation to the limbs. The authors of this new study wanted to see if the WIQ, which can be filled out by patients while waiting for their doctor appointments, might be helpful in predicting other health risks.

“A 70-year-old patient’s ability to walk six minutes is a great predictor of cardiovascular risks,” said Kevin Nead, a Stanford medical student and the first author of the study. “But most people are seen in 15-minute doctor visits. They’re not going to be doing a walking test.” Perhaps, he reasoned, a subjective test like this 17-question survey could be used instead.

Nead and his colleagues, who examined questionnaire results from more than 1,700 patients, found that the use of the WIQ alone successfully predicted cardiovascular outcomes. In addition, when the survey was used in conjunction with other common clinical tests such as blood pressure measurements and blood tests, it significantly improved the ability to predict mortality not just from cardiovascular disease but from any cause.

“In an era of increasing expense for medical costs, this work suggests that the WIQ, an extremely simple and economical tool, may significantly improve our ability to prognosticate risk,” Nead told me.

Photo by timparkinson

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