The app that can predict your risk of killer disease

LOOKING after your health and wellbeing is key if you want to ward off illnesses and infections.

But one app can now predict your risk of a killer disease – meaning you can get the medication you need to treat it.

Experts at the Scripps Research Institute have developed an app, MyGeneRank, that calculates a users' genetic risk for coronary artery disease (CAD).

CAD is when your heart's blood supply is blocked or interrupted by a build up of fatty substance in the coronary arteries.

In most cases a heart attack will be triggered by coronary heart disease.

When the clot is big enough to block the artery it can cut off the blood supply to the heart muscle.

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The app is able to produce a risk score for the illness – with those who scored higher then being able to be placed on medication such as statins or other cholesterol-lowering therapies.

The app is run through information that users provide through 23andMe.

They have to fill out consent forms as well as health related surveys, including questions on lipid-lowering drugs.

But you're only able to participate if you have a 23andMe account.

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The app then calculates and shares the user's risk score based on genetic risk factors for CAD.

These risk factors would include a family history of the issue, smoking, obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes and obesity.

The team behind the app said that one of the key findings was that responders who were not taking lipid lowering medication at the start of the study, were informed by the app that they were at high risk.

Experts found that those at high risk were 1.4 times more likely to report use of a statin lipid-lowering drug, than those at lower risk of CAD.

They were also four times more likely to report use of a non-statin lipid-lowering drug.

The signs of coronary artery disease you need to know

CAD is a common type of heart disease which is caused by a build up of plaque in the walls of the arteries

According to the Centre for Disease Control (CDC) the main symptoms of CAD are:

  • chest pain
  • an uncomfortable feeling in the chest
  • weakness
  • feeling lightheaded
  • nausea
  • cold sweats
  • Pain or discomfort in the arms or shoulders
  • shortness of breath

Those in the high risk group also started lipid-lowering therapy earlier, at around the age of 52, compared to the low risk group, where on average, the therapy started for those aged 65.

Senior author of the study, Ali Torkamani, professor and director of Genomics and Genome Informatics at the Scripps Research Translational Institute, highlighted the benefits of the app.

He said: "Even if someone finds out they have low genetic risk for CAD, knowing their score can help.

"For example if they also know they have high risk overall, that may suggest other non-genetic factors like lifestyle are contributing to their risk and that they should consider making changes."

The study looked at 3,800 respondents, with just 721 providing enough initial information for the analysis.

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The experts now plan to follow up the study with the creation of other CAD risk-scoring apps.

These studies, they say, will include clinicians and will objectively record differences in cardiovascular health outcomes such as heart attack.

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