Risk stratification is a key element of clinical management not only in the primary and secondary prevention, but also during the acute stages of cardiovascular disease. The current risk assessment algorithms in primary prevention are based on established risk factors: gender and age, cigarette smoking, the presence of hypertension and diabetes mellitus, and serum concentrations of total cholesterol, low-density lipoprotein (LDL)-cholesterol and high-density lipoproteincholesterol. However, many individuals who are assessed as “low risk” on the basis of traditional risk factors, still develop cardiac events.
This article addresses current issues relevant to the assessment of cardiovascular risk. It emphasizes the potential importance of disturbed energy supply for atherogenesis, by introducing the concept of fuel transport (chylomicron, VLDL, and remnants) and overflow (LDL) pathways of lipid metabolism. It highlights the present lack of routine methods to monitor the fuel transport pathway. It considers the measurements of serum C-reactive protein and plasma fibrinogen as new additions to the cardiovascular risk factor profiles. Finally, risk stratification based on the traditional and the new risk factors is linked to that based on the markers of acute myocardial damage such as cardiac troponin I or troponin T. It is concluded that the combined use of the markers of myocardial damage and the “new” cardiovascular risk factors is the way ahead for the assessment of cardiovascular risk.
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