Quiz Checks Death Risk After 50

By Miranda Hitti
WebMD Medical News

Reviewed By Louise Chang, MD

Feb. 14, 2006 - Researchers have created a new quiz to gauge the chance that people aged 50 and older will die within four years' time. The 12-question quiz appears in The Journal of the American Medical Association. It covers topics including age, BMI (body mass index), smoking, diabetes, cancer, heart disease, and trouble with daily activities due to poor health or memory problems.

The quiz is designed for older adults who aren't living in nursing homes or other institutions, writes Sei Lee, MD, and colleagues, who invented the quiz. Lee works in the geriatrics division of San Francisco Veterans Affairs Medical Center and the University of California, San Francisco.

Creating the Quiz

Lee's team developed and tested the quiz based on a 1998 U.S. health study. That study included people aged 50 and older who weren't living in nursing homes or other institutions. Data mainly came from telephone interviews. Most participants were white and had finished high school. The quiz might be slightly less sensitive for other groups, the researchers note. They add that participants were mainly healthy, and that unhealthier people might need a more detailed quiz.

Curious about the quiz? You can take it yourself. But keep in mind its intended audience and limits. You'll also want to keep track of your points as you go along.

Take the Quiz

  1. Age. Use this point guide:

  • Age 60-64: 1 point

  • Age 65-69: 2 points

  • Age 70-74: 3 points

  • Age 75-79: 4 points

  • Age 80-84: 5 points

  • Age 85 or older: 7 points

  1. Sex. Give yourself two points if you're a man; no points if you're a woman.

  2. Weight, height, and BMI (body mass index). Give yourself one point if your BMI is below normal (less than 25).

  3. Has a doctor told you that you have diabetes or high blood sugar? If so, give yourself two points.

  4. Has a doctor ever told you that you have cancer or a malignant tumor, excluding minor skin cancers? If so, give yourself two points.

  5. Do you have a chronic lung disease that limits your usual activities or makes you need oxygen at home? If so, give yourself two points.

  6. Has a doctor ever told you that you have congestive heart failure? If so, give yourself two points.

  7. Have you smoked cigarettes in the past week? If so, give yourself two points.

  8. Because of a health or memory problem, do you have any difficulty with bathing or showering? If so, give yourself two points.

  9. Because of a health or memory problem, do you have any difficulty with managing your money – such as paying your bills and keeping track of expenses? If so, give yourself two points.

  10. Because of a health problem do you have any difficulty with walking several blocks? If so, give yourself two points.

  11. Because of a health problem do you have any difficulty with pulling or pushing large objects like a living room chair? If so, give yourself one point.

Add up the points.

Interpreting Scores

Here are the quiz scores and four-year death risks for the people Lee's team studied to create the quiz:

  • 0-5 points: less than 4%

  • 6-9 points: 15%

  • 10-13 points: 42%

  • 14 or more points: 64%

The researchers repeated the quiz on another group of people, with similar results. Age was the most important risk factor. Good health buffered some of that risk. For instance, a healthy 85-year-old woman who copes well with daily tasks may score better on the quiz than a man 10 years younger who smokes and has heart failure.

SOURCE: Lee, S. The Journal of the American Medical Association, Feb. 15, 2006; vol 295: pp 801-808.

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