302. Guidelines: 2021 ESC Cardiovascular Prevention – Question #26 with Dr. Allison Bailey

The following question refers to Sections 3.3 and 3.4 of the 2021 ESC CV Prevention Guidelines.

The question is asked by CardioNerds Academy Intern student Dr. Adriana Mares, answered first by Brigham & Women’s medicine resident & Director of CardioNerds Internship Dr. Gurleen Kaur, and then by expert faculty Dr. Allison Bailey.

Dr. Bailey is an advanced heart failure and transplant cardiologist at Centennial Heart. She is the editor-in-chief of the American College of Cardiology’s Extended Learning (ACCEL) editorial board and was a member of the writing group for the 2018 American Lipid Guidelines. 

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.

Enjoy this Circulation 2022 Paths to Discovery article to learn about the CardioNerds story, mission, and values.

Ms. Priya Clampsia is a 58-year-old never-smoker with a history of hypertension. Her BMI is 29 kg/m2. She also mentions having pre-eclampsia during her pregnancy many years ago. She describes a predominately sedentary lifestyle and works as a receptionist. You see her in the clinic to discuss routine preventive care. Her most recent lipid panel results were LDL of 101 mg/dL, HDL of 45 mg/dL, and triglycerides of 190 mg/dL. What additional step will provide valuable information regarding her CVD risk profile?


Send additional lab workup including C-reactive protein and lipoprotein (a)


Measure her waist circumference


Assess her work stress


Ask her about history of preterm birth


B, C, and D


The correct answer is E – measuring her waist circumference, assessing her occupational stress, and obtaining history about adverse pregnancy outcomes including preterm birth all add valuable information for CVD risk stratification.

BMI is easily measured and can be used to define categories of body weight. However, body fat stores in visceral tissue carry higher risk than subcutaneous fat and therefore, waist circumference can be a simple way to measure global and abdominal fat. When waist circumference is ≥102 cm in men and ≥88 cm in women, weight reduction is advised. While these WHO thresholds are widely accepted in Europe, it is important to note that different cut-offs may be appropriate in different ethnic groups.

Work stress is important to ascertain as well because there is preliminary evidence of the detrimental impact of worse stress on ASCVD health, independent of conventional risk factors and their treatment. Work stress is determined by job strain (i.e., the combination of high demands and low control at work) and effort-reward imbalance.

Pre-eclampsia is associated with increase in CVD risk by factor of 1.5-2.7 compared with all women. Both preterm (RR 1.6) and still birth (RR 1.5) are also associated with a moderate increase in CVD risk. Taking a thorough pregnancy history is important in determining future cardiovascular risk in women. The ESC guidelines give a Class IIb (LOE B) recommendation that in women with history of premature or stillbirth, periodic screening for hypertension and DM may be considered. Of note, the 2018 ACC/AHA guidelines include preeclampsia and premature menopause (occurring at age <40 years) as risk-enhancing factors for statin therapy but state that the mechanism or cause of preterm birth is often unknown, so it is difficult to include it as a risk-enhancing factor.

Choice A (sending additional lab workup including CRP and LPa) is incorrect. The ESC guidelines do not recommend using routine circulating biomarkers as they do not improve risk prediction and publication bias distorts the evidence (Class III, LOE B). While some biomarkers like lipoprotein (a) are promising, further work is still needed. Conversely, the 2019 ACC/AHA guidelines do include, if measured, elevated high-sensitivity C-reactive protein (≥2mg/L) and elevated Lp(a) (>50mg/dL or >125nmol/L) and elevated apoB (≥130 mg/dL) as risk-enhancing factors. Specific indications for measuring Lp(a) include family history of premature ASCVD and specific indications for measuring apoB include triglyceride ≥200mg/dL.

Main Takeaway

The ESC guidelines do not recommend routine measurement of additional circulating and urine biomarkers as further data and research is still needed in this area; however, there are specific situations in which these biomarkers may be warranted.

Guideline Loc.

Section 3.3.7, 3.3.9, 3.3.10, 3.4.12

302. Guidelines: 2021 ESC Cardiovascular Prevention – Question #26 with Dr. Allison Bailey
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