Purpose of review: The aim of this article is to describe recent advances in our understanding of lifetime risks for cardiovascular disease and their implications for lipid guidelines.
Recent findings: Recent studies have indicated that, among younger and middle-aged adults, there is a large subset with low 10-year risk but high lifetime risk for cardiovascular disease. Individuals with high lifetime risks can be identified on the basis of single adverse risk factors or on the basis of overall risk factor burden. For example, using the ATP-III online risk estimator, a 45-year-old obese, nonsmoking, nondiabetic man with total cholesterol of 200 mg/dl, HDL-cholesterol of 40 mg/dl, and untreated systolic blood pressure of 135 mmHg has an estimated 10-year risk for hard coronary heart disease of 3%. In contrast, recent data indicate that his predicted remaining lifetime risk for cardiovascular disease is 50% and his predicted median survival is over 10 years shorter than a man at the same age with optimal risk factors.
Summary: Lifetime risk estimation for cardiovascular disease may be an important adjunct to short-term (10-year) risk estimation that may help identify more treatment-eligible individuals at risk for cardiovascular disease, improve risk communication, motivate changes in lifestyle and behaviors, and promote adherence to therapy.