Background: The lifetime risk of developing coronary heart disease has not been estimated in a general population. We investigated the lifetime risks of initial coronary events at different ages.
Methods: We assessed data for 7733 participants in the Framingham Heart Study, who had been examined at least once at age 40-94 years between 1971 and 1975, found to be free of coronary heart disease, and then followed up. We estimated the lifetime risks of coronary heart disease (angina pectoris, coronary insufficiency, myocardial infarction, or death from coronary heart disease) by multiple-decrement life-table methods.
Findings: The 7733 patients were followed up for a total of 109,948 person-years. Overall, 1157 participants developed coronary heart disease. 1312 died from non-coronary heart disease causes. Lifetime risk of coronary heart disease at age 40 years was 48.6% (95% CI 45.8-51.3) for men and 31.7% (29.2-34.2) for women. At age 70 years, lifetime risk was 34.9% (31.2-38.7) for men and 24.2% (21.4-27.0) for women. After we excluded isolated angina pectoris as an initial event, the lifetime risk of coronary artery disease events at age 40 years was 42.4% for men and 24.9% for women.
Interpretation: Lifetime risk at age 40 years is one in two for men and one in three for women. Even at age 70 years it is one in three for men and one in four for women. This knowledge may promote efforts in education, screening, and treatment for prevention of coronary heart disease in younger and older patients.