187. Guidelines: 2021 ESC Cardiovascular Prevention – Question #1 with Dr. Eugene Yang

This question refers to Sections 3.2 and 3.3 of the 2021 ESC CV Prevention Guidelines. The question is asked by CardioNerds Academy Intern, student Dr. Hirsh Elhence, answered first by Ohio State University Cardiology Fellow Dr. Alli Bigeh, and then by expert faculty Dr. Eugene Yang.

Dr. Yang is professor of medicine of the University of Washington where he is medical director of the Eastside Specialty Center and the co-Director of the Cardiovascular Wellness and Prevention Program. Dr. Yang is former Governor of the ACC Washington Chapter and current chair of the ACC Prevention of CVD Section.

The CardioNerds Decipher The Guidelines Series for the 2021 ESC CV Prevention Guidelines represents a collaboration with the ACC Prevention of CVD Section, the National Lipid Association, and Preventive Cardiovascular Nurses Association.

A 48-year-old Pakistani woman with rheumatoid arthritis comes to your clinic asking how she can reduce her risk of ASCVD. Her mother died of an MI at age 45, her father is healthy at age 79. Her calculated 10-year risk based on SCORE2 is 3%. SBP is 120 mmHg, LDL is 120 mg/dL. What is the next best step? 

A. Order an echocardiogram 
B. Schedule a follow-up appointment in 1 year 
C. Discuss initiating a statin 
D. Repeat lipid panel in 3-5 years 

Answer: C. Discuss Initiating a statin 

The absolute benefit derived from risk factor modification depends on the absolute risk of CVD and the absolute improvements in each risk factor category. Risk factor treatment recommendations are based on categories of CVD risk (“low-to-moderate”, “high”, and “very high”). The cut-off risk levels for these categories are numerically different for various age groups to avoid undertreatment in the young and to avoid overtreatment in the elderly. As age is a major driver of CVD risk, but lifelong risk factor treatment benefit is higher in younger people, the risk thresholds for considering treatment are lower for younger people as per the ESC guidelines. Treatment decisions should be made with shared decision-making valuing patient preference.  

Option A is INCORRECT- there is a lack of convincing evidence that echocardiography improves CVD risk reclassification, and it is NOT recommended to improve CV risk prediction. (Class III, LOE B) 

Option B is INCORRECT- simply doing nothing is not appropriate for this patient with elevated CVD risk.  

Option C is CORRECT- This patient has a seemingly low 10-year CVD risk based on SCORE 2 of 3% and her SBP is controlled; however, given her age she is considered as having high CVD risk, therefore treatment should be considered. Stepwise approach involves targeting LDL <100 (class IIa) so initiating a statin would be appropriate. This patient also carries several risk enhancing modifiers including Pakistani ethnicity, family history of premature CVD, and inflammatory comorbidity. All patients should be counseled on smoking cessation, lifestyle modifications, and target SBP <160 mmHg. 

Option D is INCORRECT- repeating a lipid panel without risk factor modification will not change treatment recommendations for this patient with elevated CVD risk.  

Main Takeaway 

In summary, when a patient <50 years old without established ASCVD has an estimated 10-year risk 2.5 to <7.5% they are considered high CVD risk and risk factor treatment should be considered. Risk modifiers should also be taken into consideration. 

*Of note- ACC/AHA guidelines recommend the ASCVD risk calculator to estimate 10-year risk and do not restructure CVD risk groups according to age groups. High risk in the ACC/AHA guidelines is considered to be >20%. 

Guideline Location

  • Table 5 and Figure 5, Page 3251
  •, Page 3253
  • 3.2.3, Figure 6 page 3252
  • 3.3, Pages 3258-3259 
Decipher the Guidelines - 2021 ESC CV Prevention - Q1
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