Vascular age to determine cardiovascular disease risk: A systematic review of its concepts, definitions, and clinical applications

Eur J Prev Cardiol. 2016 Feb;23(3):264-74. doi: 10.1177/2047487314566999. Epub 2015 Jan 21.


Background: Vascular age is an alternate means of representing an individual's cardiovascular risk. Little consensus exists on what vascular age represents and its clinical utility has not been determined. We systematically reviewed the literature to provide a comprehensive overview of different methods that have been used to define vascular age, and to examine its potential clinical value in patient communication and risk prediction.

Design: This was a systematic review with data sources of PubMed and Embase.

Results: We identified 39 articles on vascular age, 20 proposed to use vascular age as a communication tool and 19 proposed to use vascular age as a means to improve cardiovascular risk prediction. Eight papers were methodological and 31 papers reported on vascular age in study populations. Of these 31 papers, vascular age was a direct translation of the absolute risk estimated by existing cardiovascular risk prediction models in 15 papers, 12 derived vascular age from the reference values of an additional test, and in three papers vascular age was defined as the age at which the estimated cardiovascular risk equals the risk from non-invasive imaging observed degree of atherosclerosis. One trial found a small effect on risk factor levels when vascular age was communicated instead of cardiovascular risk.

Conclusion: Despite sharing a common name, various studies have proposed distinct ways to define and measure vascular age. Studies into the effects of vascular age as a tool to improve cardiovascular risk prediction or patient communication are scarce but will be required before its clinical use can be justified.

Keywords: Cardiovascular disease; atherosclerosis; risk communication; risk prediction; vascular age.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / diagnosis*
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / etiology*
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / mortality
  • Consensus
  • Decision Support Techniques*
  • Female
  • Health Status Indicators*
  • Health Status*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Predictive Value of Tests
  • Prognosis
  • Risk Assessment
  • Risk Factors
  • Terminology as Topic