The newly released 2013 ACC/AHA Guidelines for Assessing Cardiovascular Risk makes progress compared with previous cardiovascular risk assessment algorithms. For example, the new focus on total atherosclerotic cardiovascular diseases (ASCVD) is now inclusive of stroke in addition to hard coronary events, and there are now separate equations to facilitate estimation of risk in non-Hispanic white and black individuals and separate equations for women. Physicians may now estimate lifetime risk in addition to 10-year risk. Despite this progress, the new risk equations do not appear to lead to significantly better discrimination than older models. Because the exact same risk factors are incorporated, using the new risk estimators may lead to inaccurate assessment of atherosclerotic cardiovascular risk in special groups such as younger individuals with unique ASCVD risk factors. In general, there appears to be an overestimation of risk when applied to modern populations with greater use of preventive therapy, although the magnitude of overestimation remains unclear. Because absolute risk estimates are directly used for treatment decisions in the new cholesterol guidelines, these issues could result in overuse of pharmacologic management. The guidelines could provide clearer direction on which individuals would benefit from additional testing, such as coronary calcium scores, for more personalized preventive therapies. We applaud the advances of these new guidelines, and we aim to critically appraise the applicability of the risk assessment tools so that future iterations of the estimators can be improved to more accurately assess risk in individual patients.
Keywords: coronary artery calcium; guidelines; preventive cardiology; risk assessment.
Copyright © 2014 American College of Cardiology Foundation. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.