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Will you be dead in 10 years? UW prof calls new test valid

The 12 items on the mortality index are assigned points. The fewer total points, the better your odds. Take a work break, if you're over 50, and good luck. (AP file photo)

Do you smoke? Do you get winded walking several blocks?

A new “mortality index” helps people older than 50 estimate their chances of dying in the next 10 years.

Reading the research, I thought it would be helpful for people to know this information as a wake-up call to change habits before it’s too late.

But the idea, according to lead other Dr. Marisa Cruz with the University of California, San Francisco, is actually to help doctors decide whether costly health screenings or medical procedures are worth the risk for patients unlikely to live 10 more years.

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 mortality index are assigned points. The fewer total points, the better your odds. Take a work break, if you’re over 50, and good luck.

Men automatically get 2 points. Sorry guys

Men and women ages 60 to 64 get 1 point; ages 70 to 74 get 3 points; and 85 or over get 7 points.

Add Two points each if you have any of these issues: 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 added for each of these conditions: diabetes or high blood sugar; difficulty pushing large objects, such as a heavy chair; being thin or normal weight. At an older age, thinness could be a sign of an illness according to the research.

Doing the math, the highest – or worst – score possible is a 26. That person has a 95 percent chance of dying within 10 years. To get that number, 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 slightly overweight. I’m living forever.

This study is published in the “Journal of the American Medical Association.”

Dr. Stephan Fihn, a University of Washington professor of medicine and health quality measurement specialist with Veterans Affairs health services tells AP the index seems valid and “methodologically sound.”

He also said it probably would be most accurate for the oldest patients, “who don’t need a scientific crystal ball to figure out their days are numbered.”


AP contributed to this report

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