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A practical approach to risk assessment to prevent coronary artery disease and its complications

  • MacRae F Linton
    Correspondence
    Address for reprints: MacRae F. Linton, MD, or Sergio Fazio, MD, PhD, Division of Cardiovascular Medicine, Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, 383 Preston Research Building, Nashville, Tennessee 37232-6300, USA.
    Affiliations
    Division of Cardiovascular Medicine, Departments of Medicine, Pharmacology, and Pathology, Vanderbilt University Medical Center, Nashville, Tennessee, USA
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  • Sergio Fazio
    Affiliations
    Division of Cardiovascular Medicine, Departments of Medicine, Pharmacology, and Pathology, Vanderbilt University Medical Center, Nashville, Tennessee, USA
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      Abstract

      The recent focus on emerging cardiovascular risk factors, such as C-reactive protein, homocysteine, and small, dense low-density lipoprotein (LDL), may give the false impression that the current approach to the assessment of cardiovascular disease risk fails to identify a large section of the high-risk population. On the contrary, the new guidelines of the National Cholesterol Education Program Adult Treatment Panel III (NCEP ATP III) propose classifying an enormous number of individuals, including people with any form of atherosclerotic disease, diabetes, and a combination of major risk factors, into the category of high risk (>20% likelihood of a major coronary event or stroke in 10 years). Considering the widespread prevalence of the metabolic syndrome—a high-risk condition characterized by mild hypertension, mild dyslipidemia, hyperglycemia, and visceral obesity—we may be faced with the challenge of implementing aggressive risk reduction therapies in as much as 30% of the adult US population. From the point of view of risk assessment, a practical approach is to follow the NCEP guidelines (ie, place patients with diabetes and those with atherosclerotic complications in the highest risk category), apply the Framingham calculation to determine risk in people with common risk factors, and initiate early intervention in people who have familial hypercholesterolemia (LDL cholesterol >200 mg/dL) or a family history of early cardiovascular disease. The emerging risk factors may be useful for further stratifying risk in individuals with intermediate risk and the presence of risk factors not included in the Framingham calculation.
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