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AROUND HOME : A Health-Risk Program

April 09, 1989|PAUL CIOTTI

WE KNOW. YOU are tired of using your computer to write fawning letters to your creditors or to print out the embarrassing totals of your own net worth. You want a program that tells you something about your own life.

OK, here it is: a health-risk-analysis program, devised by a Kansas doctor and based on a questionnaire developed by the Centers for Disease Control, in Atlanta. You answer 51 health, hereditary and life-style questions posed by the program, and it in turn variously computes your physical age (as opposed to your chronological age) and the top 12 factors most likely to kill you.

Using the program is like taking a multiple-choice test. It asks for your age, race, sex, height, weight, blood pressure, cholesterol count, marital status and occupation. It inquires how many miles you drive each year, whether you use a seat belt, pick up hitchhikers, carry a gun for self-protection, indulge in high-risk entertainment or argue with strangers. It asks smokers how many cigarettes they smoke each week and beer drinkers how many bottles of beer they drink. It asks if your parents had diabetes or died young from heart attacks or strokes. It asks whether you've lost your job during the last year, been in jail, divorced your spouse or suffered the death of someone dear.

When it's done, it prints out a tidy little chart, listing in descending order of importance the 12 factors most likely to kill you (such as heart disease, lung cancer, cirrhosis, suicide, stroke and motor vehicle accidents). It tells you how many years you could knock off your current physical age if you take the program's advice: "You're 23% overweight. Your desirable weight is 158." Finally, the program tells you your chances of dying in the next 10 years--5,916 out of 100,000, say.

The purpose of the program, which was originally designed to be used by doctors at health fairs, is to get people to change their high-risk behavior. And if you don't like its predictions, you can experiment with changing your answers to see how it affects your chances of living through the next decade. (Warning: This program verges on the traumatic for people who smoke, drink or had parents who died young.)

PC Health Risk Appraisal Program, from Advanced Medical Systems Inc. A public-domain program available for $3 from Computer Bin; telephone (714) 657-7821.

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