Frequently Asked Questions
What is the purpose of Heart Stress Risk?
Heart Stress Risk gives you information and tools to lower your stress. You have access to a state of the art evaluation of your individualized stress Profile. You will learn how these stresses increase your risk for having serious heart problems, like a heart attack. And you’ll get ideas about what you can do to live with less stress. It all starts with completing the Risk Profile.
What is the Risk Profile?
The Heart Stress Risk questionnaire enquires into known risks for cardiovascular disease. It is provided as a public service. It’s based on the best medical research into stress and heart disease. You’ll get your free four page personalized Profile report emailed to you. This Report tells you what areas are low risks for you, and which are high risks. It takes about 10 minutes to answer these questions, and the report is sent to your email box within minutes of submitting your answers. If you don’t get it, check your spam filtered area. If you still can’t find it, check our Technical Support page or email us.
Who should use the Risk Profile?
The stress risk screen is for anyone older than 18 who can understand written English. (sorry it is not available in other languages at the present time) It will be most useful for those over 40 who are looking to reduce their risk of heart disease and heart attack from their lifestyle. Those who have already had heart disease diagnosed will have a greater risk and can benefit greatly from the results of their answers.
What is a heart “risk”?
‘Risk factors’ are variables that medical studies have related to increased risk of a disease or illness outcome (for example having a heart attack). Those who have a ‘high’ level of a risk factor have a mathematically higher likelihood of that outcome; but it does not mean that you are certain to have such an event at any point.
How do “risk” factors work?
Risk factors are cumulative, meaning that your overall risk will increase the more of these individual risks you have. If you complete the Risk Profile, and you have one ‘high’ risk, that is good news. It means that you’re doing well on six of the seven areas that could create a problem. All the risk factors on the Heart Stress Risk Profile have been demonstrated to increase the risk of heart attacks in large epidemiological studies of the population.
If I have a risk factor, does that mean I’m going to have a heart attack?
No. It’s just like smoking. We know a smoker is more likely to have health problems. However, not all smokers develop any significant problems. It only tells us that the ‘average’ person with that risk is more likely to have a heart attack. More importantly, if you take action to reduce your level of that risk factor, it means that you will reduce your risk of having a heart attack.
The chance to learn about my stressors is great
but will my information be confidential?
The consent form states clearly that the information you provide will be kept confidential. It describes what we save, and why. It says that the individual responses you give to the questions are saved in “an aggregated data file”. ‘Aggregated data’ means that no personal identifiers (like your name, your email address, or where you are from) are asked for, and are not part of that file.
The data file is stored with the same level of data security as is required for financial transactions or health files. This means that files are encrypted and password protected. In the unlikely event that someone hacks into this secure site, all they will get is a table of numbers from the answers that have been given by thousands of responders. There will be no way of knowing what answers were given by whom.
The consent form you agree to highlights that the information is gathered to better understand the real challenges that heart patients face in leading healthy lives. It is anonymous and confidential and will only be used in research conducted by HeartStressRisk Inc.
Is the Profile “evidence-based”?
In health practice today, “evidence-based” means that objective studies with thousands of participants have demonstrated that the factor being investigated is significantly linked with the outcome variable. In this case the outcome variable is increased risk for having a heart attack.
The INTERHEART study, the largest international study of risk factors for a heart attack, highlighted that stress is one of the top three factors worldwide associated with the occurrence of first heart attacks. In North America, stress is as important a risk factor as cholesterol and smoking. However, it is not given the same attention as smoking and cholesterol testing get with heart patients.
Why doesn’t my doctor evaluate my stress risks?
Some doctors take the time to evaluate stress risks and do so routinely. Other doctors are less inclined to ask about stress. There are a number of reasons:
1) It takes a long time to do a proper stress assessment (often much longer than the average 15 minute medical appointment)
2) When the doctor finds you have stress, they do not usually have a quick solution (e.g. for cholesterol, high blood pressure and diabetes, they can write a prescription; for stress you can’t)
3) Some doctors feel that changing your stress levels is not their job: it’s yours. Or they may think that stress can’t easily be changed. They see it as something that you have to take the initiative with
Heart Stress Risk has been designed to overcome all of these difficulties, so you and your doctor can DO something about the problem.
When you complete your own Profile, you are taking an active role in determining your risk AND reducing it. When you take responsibility for making changes in your daily habits, and decide on where you need to start, you are inviting your doctor into a partnership to change your risk Profile, not putting the accountability for change on the doctor.
The doctor can do what he or she does best: problem solve where you are getting stuck. That is quite practical for the usual 15 minute medical appointment. The role of the problem solver can also be filled by family members, psychologists, social workers, therapists, and coaches. We invite you to ask your health team to come to Heart Stress Risk and learn more about how they can support your efforts. That means your doctor can be of help to you, in reducing this key risk factor as effectively as they are already doing with cholesterol and smoking.
How does what I learn here dovetail with my
current medical support team plans or objectives?
The site does not replace the patient’s existing health providers but is meant to help you work together with your doctors to identify what you need to do to recover from your heart attack.
What brought you to this idea of a HeartStressRisk site?
I kept looking for a site I could send my patients to, to help them learn more about how stress robbed them of their heart health. I could not find one. For example, American Heart Association has a site (heart.org). It has a wonderful risk assessment tool, but it doesn’t even mention stress. The same is true with the Canadian Heart and Stroke Association site.
The frustration I felt about the lack of attention being paid to stress in all the popular sites led me to develop this site. The final catalyst for starting this work came from a personal event. My father’s death in 2010 was a trigger for taking action. He was an inspiration to me and watching him live 40 years after his heart attack reinforced that often the very best is yet to come: even after the shock of a heart attack. I wanted others to be inspired to do their best for themselves and their families as well.
How does it differ from other sites?
I have designed the site to be useful for patients and for doctors. I’ve been sending my own patients (those who are scheduled to come in for consult with me) to the site. Most have found it very helpful, and I have streamlined it to help me triage what needs to be tackled in their treatment.
The key competitive advantage of this site is the assessment Profile (and the useful feedback people will receive by email further clarifying what their actual stress risks are), and even more importantly, how they can begin to lower their risks. They get a report with a low, moderate, or high rating in seven different areas. Once they have their report they are in a position to think about whether they need to do anything about those risks.
Will the data you gather be shared with others?
How will my email address be used?
The email addresses are collected in an online confidential password protected account. We are against spam. You will not be spammed by us, nor will we sell or rent your emails to others.
Our list is used to send our subscribers additional information about how to use their Profile results to better recover from a heart event. Emails will also be used to provide information on resources, news, products and services that are likely to be interesting and helpful for heart patients in their goal of lowering their stress risks. Your subscription to the email list is voluntary and you can remove yourself from the list at any time. Anybody who is not interested in receiving any additional information can remove their names from the list whenever they chose.
People are wary about being coaxed into buying something.
Is there a Venus flytrap?
There is no Venus flytrap. The most valuable part of this site is the opportunity for the public to do a quick assessment and find out exactly what their heart risk is. This assessment is free. It’s state of the art and only includes measures that have been shown to work. You can easily enjoy the many benefits of understanding your stress risk and making decisions to help you lead a healthier life without buying a single thing.
Am I expected to buy anything?
There is no obligation or expectation to buy any product or service.
My goal is to make the site genuinely useful for patients who want to know what their stress risk is. I also want to make the site equally useful for the doctors working with you. Only if I’m successful in making it useful to you, the patient, and the doctor helping you recover, will you be likely to recommend this resource to others. The free assessment and the useful information and direction provided will encourage people to share it as a useful tool.
My vision is to create the best resource available on the web on the topic of how stress impacts your heart health. That will include knowing about what the best tools are to manage those stresses.
Resources that are copyright and are available for purchase will be sold through the site. Each person will decide whether they need such a resource and whether they wish to buy it.
Who are the medical researchers who developed these questionnaires?
There are four research groups who have contributed to the Profile assessment on this site.
The first are the INTERHEART researchers, Dr Salim Yusef and Annika Rosengren.
The second is the epidemiological research group under the direction of Dr Ronald Kessler at Harvard University.
The third is Dr Frances Chung and her group at University Health Network in Toronto.
The fourth is Dr Erik Laugsand from Sweden.
What’s the Mission for HeartStressRisk?
The mission is simple: educate heart patients about the role of stress to their heart health. Once they understand what their stress risks are, how they work, and where they can start to make changes, they are more likely to do something that works to lower stress.
Across the next few years I’ll be providing more tools to help our community make those changes. Tools we could develop for the site include: 1) a membership site where people will have access to tools and information for a low price; 2) CDs to teach stress reduction skills; and 3) running a webinar to teach stress reduction skills for heart patients. There will be other tools developed based on the interests of the participants.