Researchers offer 'mortality index' as a guideline for those more than 50 years old
By The Associated Press
Published: Tuesday, March 5, 2013, 5:30 p.m.
CHICAGO — Want to know your chances of dying in the next 10 years? Here are some bad signs: getting winded walking several blocks, smoking, and having trouble pushing a chair across the room.
That's according to a “mortality index” developed by San Francisco researchers for people older than 50.
The test scores may satisfy people's morbid curiosity, but the researchers say their 12-item index is mostly for use by doctors. It can help them decide whether costly health screenings or medical procedures are worth the risk for patients unlikely to live 10 more years.
It's best to take the test with a doctor, who can discuss what the score means in the context of patients' own medical history, the study authors say.
The index “wasn't meant as guidance about how to alter your lifestyle,” said lead author Dr. Marisa Cruz of the University of California, San Francisco.
Instead, doctors can use the results to help patients understand the pros and cons of such things as rigorous diabetes treatment, colon cancer screening and tests for cervical cancer. Those may not be safe or appropriate for very sick, old people likely to die before cancer ever develops.
The 12 items on the index are assigned points; fewer total points means better odds.
•Men automatically get 2 points. In addition to that, men and women ages 60 to 64 get 1 point; ages 70 to 74 get 3 points; and 85 or over get 7 points.
• Two points each: a current or previous cancer diagnosis, excluding minor skin cancers; lung disease limiting activity or requiring oxygen; heart failure; smoking; difficulty bathing; difficulty managing money because of health or memory problem; difficulty walking several blocks.
• One point each: diabetes or high blood sugar; difficulty pushing large objects, such as a heavy chair; being thin or normal weight.
The highest, or worst, score is a 26, with a 95 percent chance of dying within 10 years. To get that, you'd have to be a man at least 85 years old with all the above conditions.
For a score of zero, which means a 3 percent chance of dying within 10 years, you'd have to be a woman younger than 60 without any of those infirmities — but at least slightly overweight.
It's hardly surprising that a sick, older person would have a much higher chance of dying than someone younger and more vigorous, and it's well known that women generally live longer than men. But why would being overweight be less risky than being of normal weight or slim?
One possible reason is that thinness in older age could be a sign of illness, Cruz said.
Other factors could also play a role, so the index should be seen as providing clues but not the gospel truth, the research suggests.
The findings were published on Tuesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association. Grants from the National Institute on Aging and the American Federation for Aging Research helped pay for the study.
The researchers created the index by analyzing data on almost 20,000 Americans over 50 who took part in a national health survey in 1998. They tracked the participants for 10 years. Nearly 6,000 participants died during that time.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- ‘Patriots’ back Nevada rancher; Reid labels them ‘domestic terrorists’
- Health care law enrollee passwords at risk for Heartbleed Internet security flaw, feds warn
- Del Taco customers mistakenly charged thousands for fast-food meals
- IRS, other agencies award contracts to license plate tracking company
- Fox fires exec who used email to plan aid
- Ohio couple married for 70 years dies just 15 hours apart
- Recovery expert believes wreckage of missing plane located
- First date in New Jersey ends with him pilfering her TV and Yorkshire terrier
- Washington’s snowy owl recovers from apparent bus crash, returns to wild
- Mauling puts bears back on firing line in Central Florida
- Drug crime reclassification to help ex-cons get vote rights