Topic Overview

Your doctor may talk with you about your risk for heart and blood flow problems, including heart attack and stroke. You and your doctor can use your risk to decide whether you need to lower it and what treatment is best for you.

What might you be at risk for?

Your doctor is checking your risk of having a problem called atherosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries. It is the starting point for most heart and blood flow problems. These include heart disease and peripheral arterial disease.

Your doctor might talk to you about your risk of having a heart attack or a stroke in the next 10 years.

How does your doctor check your risk?

Your doctor looks at things that put you at risk for a heart attack and stroke. Your doctor might check:

  • Your cholesterol levels.
  • Your blood pressure.
  • If you have diabetes.
  • Your age, sex, and race.
  • If you smoke.
  • If you have a family history of early heart disease. Early heart disease means you have a male family member who was diagnosed before age 55 or a female family member who was diagnosed before age 65.
  • Results of tests such as C-reactive protein, coronary calcium scan, or ankle-brachial index.

Calculators. Your doctor might use a tool to calculate a risk score for you. There are different tools that doctors use. These tools are not perfect. They may show that your risk is higher or lower than it really is. But these tools give you and your doctor a good idea about your risk.

What do you do with your risk?

Knowing your risk is just the starting point for you and your doctor. Knowing your risk can help you and your doctor talk about whether you need to lower your risk. Together, you can decide what treatment is best for you.

References

Other Works Consulted

  • Greenland P, et al. (2010). 2010 ACCF/AHA guideline for assessment of cardiovascular risk in asymptomatic adults: A report of the American College of Cardiology Foundation/American Heart Association Task Force on Practice Guidelines. Journal of the American College of Cardiology, 56(25): e50–e103.
  • Redberg RF, et al. (2009). ACCF/AHA 2009 Performance measures for primary prevention of cardiovascular disease in adults: A report of the American College of Cardiology Foundation/American Heart Association Task Force on Performance Measures. Circulation, 120(13): 1296–1336.
  • U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (2009). Using nontraditional risk factors in coronary heart disease risk assessment. Available online: http://www.uspreventiveservicestaskforce.org/uspstf/uspscoronaryhd.htm.
  • U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (2012). Screening for coronary heart disease with electrocardiography: Recommendation statement. Available online: http://www.uspreventiveservicestaskforce.org/uspstf/uspsacad.htm.

Credits

ByHealthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer Rakesh K. Pai, MD, FACC - Cardiology, Electrophysiology
Brian D. O'Brien, MD - Internal Medicine
Martin J. Gabica, MD - Family Medicine
Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer Robert A. Kloner, MD, PhD - Cardiology
E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine

Current as ofJuly 27, 2016