Screening for cardiovascular risk in asymptomatic patients

J Am Coll Cardiol. 2010 Mar 23;55(12):1169-1177. doi: 10.1016/j.jacc.2009.09.066.


Cardiovascular disease is the number 1 cause of death in the western world and 1 of the leading causes of death worldwide. The lifetime risk of atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease (CVD) for persons at age 50 years, on average, is estimated to be 52% for men and 39% for women, with a wide variation depending on risk factor burden. Assessing patients' cardiovascular risk may be used for the targeting of preventive treatments of individual patients who are asymptomatic but at sufficiently high risk for the development of CVD. Risk stratifying patients for CVD remains challenging, particularly for those with low or intermediate short-term risk. Several algorithms have been described to facilitate the assessment of risk in individual patients. We describe 6 risk algorithms (Framingham Risk Score for coronary heart disease events and for cardiovascular events, Adult Treatment Panel III, SCORE [Systematic Coronary Risk Evaluation] project, Reynolds Risk Score, ASSIGN [Assessing Cardiovascular Risk to Scottish Intercollegiate Guidelines Network/SIGN to Assign Preventative Treatment], and QRISK [QRESEARCH Cardiovascular Risk Algorithm]) for outcomes, population derived/validated, receiver-operating characteristic, variables included, and limitations. Areas of uncertainty include 10-year versus lifetime risk, prediction of CVD or coronary heart disease end points, nonlaboratory-based risk scores, age at which to start, race and sex differences, and whether a risk score should guide therapy. We believe that the best high-risk approach to CVD evaluation and prevention lies in routine testing for cardiovascular risk factors and risk score assessment. We recommend that health care providers discuss the global cardiovascular risk and lifetime cardiovascular risk score assessment with each patient to better explain each patient's future risk. Appropriate intervention, guided by risk assessment, has the potential to bring about a significant reduction in population levels of risk.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / diagnosis*
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / prevention & control*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mass Screening
  • Risk Assessment
  • Risk Factors