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In the National Cholesterol Education Program Adult Treatment Panel III guidelines published in 2001, estimation of cardiovascular risk was recommended based on the Framingham score for 10-year risk of myocardial infarction and the Canadian Cardiovascular Society currently recommends the Framingham total cardiovascular risk score. During development of joint guidelines released in 2013 by the American College of Cardiology (ACC) and American Heart Association (AHA), the decision was taken to develop a new risk score. This resulted in the ACC/AHA Pooled Cohort Equations Risk Calculator. This risk calculator, based on major National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute-funded cohort studies, is designed to predict 10-year risk of 'hard' atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease (ASCVD) events, namely, nonfatal myocardial infarction, fatal coronary heart disease, nonfatal, or fatal stroke. Considerable strengths are its inclusion of stroke as an end point and race as a characteristic, which allows better risk prediction especially in African-American individuals, plus provision of lifetime ASCVD risk estimates for adults aged 20-59 years. Notable omissions from the risk factors include chronic kidney disease and any measure of social deprivation. An early criticism of the Pooled Cohort Equations Risk Calculator has been its alleged overestimation of ASCVD risk which, if confirmed in the general population, is likely to result in statin therapy being prescribed to many individuals at lower risk than the intended 7.5% 10-year ASCVD risk threshold for treatment in the joint ACC/AHA cholesterol guidelines. In this review we discuss the development of the new risk calculator, its strengths and weaknesses, and potential implications for its routine use.

Original publication




Journal article


Can J Cardiol

Publication Date





613 - 619


Adult, Age Distribution, American Heart Association, Canada, Cardiovascular Diseases, Cholesterol, Cohort Studies, Coronary Artery Disease, Female, Humans, Hydroxymethylglutaryl-CoA Reductase Inhibitors, Hyperlipidemias, Incidence, Male, Middle Aged, Practice Guidelines as Topic, Predictive Value of Tests, Risk Assessment, Severity of Illness Index, Sex Distribution, Societies, Medical, Stroke, United States, Young Adult