Monday, May 27, 2013

There's a Fair Old Chance That I Might Be Dead Soon


My 65th birthday is approaching with the speed of a supercharged Zimmer Frame. It is no longer just around the corner, it is down the street, leaning against the lamp-post with a malevolent grin on its face. As some kind of early birthday present from my doctor, I received a letter from the Surgery the other day saying that there was a fair old chance that I would be dead soon. To be precise, a 26.8% chance that cardiovascular disease would strike me down in the next ten years. 

This level of precision results from a new Government initiative to test people over the age of 50 based on something called a QRISK Algorithm. My blood pressure had been tested, my cholesterol had been calculated, my height and mass had been surveyed and my medical history had been recorded - and all that information was fed into a computer and out popped my mortality coefficient (or whatever they want to call it). As it is above 20%, I am invited to make an appointment with my doctor, who will no doubt suggest swallowing Statins for the few months and years I have left, enter a new loving relationship with pulses and organic beans, and avoid alcohol with the fervour of a Salvationist. It is all rather depressing.

After a couple of days of despondency, a thought struck me whilst I was sipping my pea and watercress smoothie (well, it was whilst eating a plate of chips, actually, but don't tell the doctor). The one piece of information missing from the results print-out was what is the average chance of contracting cardiovascular disease for a 65 year old man in Britain. I eventually tracked down the answer to this question in an article in the British Medical Journal ("Predicting cardiovascular risk in England and Wales: prospective derivation and validation of QRISK2", Hippisley-Cox et al. BMJ 2008;336:a332 doi:10.1136/bmj.39609.449676.25), and surprise, surprise, it turns out to be 29.44. 

In an attempt to double check my findings - which turned the message in the letter upside down and now suggested that I could walk off into the sunset of my life with the spring in my step of a lithe teenager - I managed to track down an on-line QRISK calculator. When I fed the various bits of information into this it calculated that my risk of popping my clogs due to cardiovascular disease during the next 10 years was 15.6%, which was once again less than the chances of a typical person of my age, sex and ethnicity. It is all rather satisfying. Now pass me that piece of chocolate cake and that glass of Malt Whisky.

23 comments:

  1. But did the calculator make any allowance for the fact you live in Yorkshire? You should already be pushing up the daisies!

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  2. PS - beastly sorry for not commenting recently; been rushed off my feet with hardly a minute to blog, let alone comment.

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    1. Strangely enough the online calculator does take where you live into account. You can have great fun with it by changing certain factors to reduce or increase your chances (if I were to change sex, grow eight inches, and move to Bournemouth, I would live forever). As for commenting, it is always a pleasure to see your comments whenever they appear. You are my second-oldest follower (not your age, how long you have been following the blog)and therefore you are allowed to comment whenever you want to.

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  3. No offense meant but somehow I feel your post lacks a certain degree of gratitude towards HMG. They worry about you and what do they get? Mistrust of a (re)calculating citizen! It is about time you learn to trust politicians. I agree that this is a process usually taking more than 65 years but still you should have made some progress by now.
    In the meantime, does the Qrisk Algorithm make allowances for (your) hobbies such as corporal exercises, pub visits etc.?
    Hope to be able to read your reaction.
    Peter (69)

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    1. You are right, of course. I am very grateful to HMG for all the help and support they provide me with. They only have my welfare at heart and I love them, especially in the form of their manifestation on Earth which is Big Brother. Yours etc, Winston Smith.

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  4. At least you've made it to 65. A lot of people do not do that for the very reason you mention or others. I think you should celebrate being sixty-five all year. Happy Birthday.

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    1. Thank you - and yes, I am glad for every one of those 65 years.

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  5. Soon to reach 68 and so anything over the 'three score years and ten' will be a bonus. Did you factor in the moustache; I don't have one but looking at those in the photo I suggest that it might be a significant factor.

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    1. We need a new algorithm, one which is moustache-friendly.

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  6. Oh what the heck- forget the number and just enjoy every single day and pray dear God for like a zillion more to come!!!! It's all about how you feel and what you ENJOY!!!!!!

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  7. AND! please in the future don't ever post that title again- gee whiz you really scared me for a moment, but then I told myself- Alan is a funny-funny man so it must be something filled with humor and not something sad- so go ahead and read it!!! Funny Alan!

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  8. I must say, as Karen, I was startled to see the title, and it really grabbed my attention! No one knows the hour or the second, so live on whilst we are able!!!! I'll raise a glass to another 65 for you!!!

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  9. 'It's not the cough that carries you off, it's the coffin they carry you off in'. Your post title was the first thing that grabbed me too, but then I was amazed to see the photo of the coffin. At my mum's funeral, the vague thought struck me that I might like a photo of the event - but it didn't seem the right thing to whip out my camera!
    Doctors seem fond of sending 'threatening' letters... I had one recently that darkly hinted that I might like advice on a malady that appeared, when you pieced all the euphemisms together, to be incontinence. I did not feel the need to take them up on their offer.

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  10. I think the Pharmaceutical companies put the Doctors up to those letters, they probably ply them with Caribbean Cruises or something. Sixty Five ..eh..that is the far far side of fifty..I will be 62 in the Autumn. The way I look at it, each year spent out of the Nursing Home is a gift! :)

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  11. Be careful before embarking on a new "healthy" regime of exercise, beans, statins and sobriety. It does not ensure that you will live any longer - it will just seem so.

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  12. If you had to give up beer, I think your heart would stop on the spot anyway - it would die of the shock! Keep on, keeping on!

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  13. There should be a law against letters like that. Of course if one was to be inadvertently scared into an intensely healthy lifestyle it could serve to take the sting out of the fear of death, more of a welcome relief really. Revisit the idea nearer your 95th birthday.

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  14. I read a piece about Britain's oldest man, a short time ago. When asked the secret of his longevity, he answered, "Luck." I think he's right, Alan. Of course, there are things we can do to load the dice in our favour, but worrying about what might happen is not the way to go. I think Mike has put it in a nutshell...or should that be nut cutlet?

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  15. Pea and watercress smoothie? I think I'd rather die today. lol.....

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  16. As I always say , "It helps to be a little crazy!" We can ignore things that may worry us. Seriously , I think many kids of today are in worse shape than many 65 year olds. Not worrying has to count for something.

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  17. To quote Thomas Hardy, (the Burnett family) approach death like a parabola curve approaches a straight line. To quote Aunty Miriam, the only way they’ll get rid of us is to shoot us. I doubt, dear brother, that you’re exempt from the above family trait.

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  18. Good for you. Here the problem is that the local health centre have started limiting appointments to a pretty strict 10 minutes. I'm sure I remember, a long time ago, a GP saying that what you really had to pay attention to was the patient's afterthought - how they would say, as they were about to leave "oh yes doctor and I meant to mention xyz..."

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  19. I'm beginning to resent the medical profession's scare tactics. I feel fine, so why should I go in for a physical to find out if something is wrong with me -- especially if that something may take several years to manifest itself. I don't like the idea of spending my last years on medication for something that might, or might not, happen. I'm 75 and I'm ready to go when my time is up.

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