A health risk profile is a series of questions and basic medical tests, which can help determine a person’s risk for developing certain diseases or conditions. Sometimes a health risk profile is disease specific. For example, a health risk profile might determine the risk of someone developing heart disease, cancer or diabetes. At other times, a population of people may voluntarily be profiled to evaluate the risks of certain diseases specific to that population.
An overall health risk profile is often used during a regular physical. It can help physicians direct the course of treatment or give counseling about behaviors or activities that may put people at risk for developing certain kinds of conditions. Smokers may be counseled to stop smoking. People with a high Body Mass Index (BMI) may be counseled to lose weight. Behaviors are assessed against known risks for a wide number of diseases.
Generally, the more specific a health risk profile is, the more likely it will identify risk factors for conditions. A cardiac health risk profile is much more specific to determining risk factors for cardiac disease than is a more general health risk profile.
The health risk profile questions and basic medical tests, like measurement of blood pressure or blood tests, may change when more information is learned about the risks for a certain condition. For example, maximum healthy BMI measurements used to have a higher level when determining risks of heart disease. These measurements have been lowered as a result of further studies, indicating that even a mildly overweight person may be at increased risk for developing heart disease.
The health risk profile is not a definitive diagnostic tool, since people are individuals, and not everything about every condition is known. People with high risk factors for certain diseases may not develop them, despite suggestive profiling. Additionally, a person with a health risk profile that does not suggest likelihood of developing an illness may still develop that illness. The health risk profile can make predictions based on data, but these are not absolute or fail-safe predictions.
Even though a heath risk profile is not a definitive diagnostic method, it can still help identify people early on that might be at risk for developing certain conditions. A person in a high-risk group may be able to change risk by changing behavior. Even when a genetic predisposition for a condition is clearly understood, behavior changes may still influence overall risk.