Inclusion of stroke in cardiovascular risk prediction instruments: A statement for healthcare professionals from the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association

Daniel T. Lackland, Mitchell S.V. Elkind, Ralph D'Agostino, Mandip S. Dhamoon, David C. Goff, Randall T. Higashida, Leslie A. McClure, Pamela H. Mitchell, Ralph L. Sacco, Cathy A. Sila, Sidney C. Smith, David Tanne, David L. Tirschwell, Emmanuel Touzé, Lawrence R. Wechsler

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

115 Scopus citations


Background and Purpose-Current US guideline statements regarding primary and secondary cardiovascular risk prediction and prevention use absolute risk estimates to identify patients who are at high risk for vascular disease events and who may benefit from specific preventive interventions. These guidelines do not explicitly include patients with stroke, however. This statement provides an overview of evidence and arguments supporting (1) the inclusion of patients with stroke, and atherosclerotic stroke in particular, among those considered to be at high absolute risk of cardiovascular disease and (2) the inclusion of stroke as part of the outcome cluster in risk prediction instruments for vascular disease. METHODS AND Results-Writing group members were nominated by the committee co-chairs on the basis of their previous work in relevant topic areas and were approved by the American Heart Association (AHA) Stroke Council's Scientific Statements Oversight Committee and the AHA Manuscript Oversight Committee. The writers used systematic literature reviews (covering the period from January 1980 to March 2010), reference to previously published guidelines, personal files, and expert opinion to summarize existing evidence, indicate gaps in current knowledge, and, when appropriate, formulate recommendations using standard AHA criteria. All members of the writing group had the opportunity to comment on the recommendations and approved the final version of this document. The guideline underwent extensive AHA internal peer review, Stroke Council leadership review, and Scientific Statements Oversight Committee review before consideration and approval by the AHA Science Advisory and Coordinating Committee. There are several reasons to consider stroke patients, and particularly patients with atherosclerotic stroke, among the groups of patients at high absolute risk of coronary and cardiovascular disease. First, evidence suggests that patients with ischemic stroke are at high absolute risk of fatal or nonfatal myocardial infarction or sudden death, approximating the ≥20% absolute risk over 10 years that has been used in some guidelines to define coronary risk equivalents. Second, inclusion of atherosclerotic stroke would be consistent with the reasons for inclusion of diabetes mellitus, peripheral vascular disease, chronic kidney disease, and other atherosclerotic disorders despite an absence of uniformity of evidence of elevated risks across all populations or patients. Third, the large-vessel atherosclerotic subtype of ischemic stroke shares pathophysiological mechanisms with these other disorders. Inclusion of stroke as a high-risk condition could result in an expansion of 10% in the number of patients considered to be at high risk. However, because of the heterogeneity of stroke, it is uncertain whether other stroke subtypes, including hemorrhagic and nonatherosclerotic ischemic stroke subtypes, should be considered to be at the same high levels of risk, and further research is needed. Inclusion of stroke with myocardial infarction and sudden death among the outcome cluster of cardiovascular events in risk prediction instruments, moreover, is appropriate because of the impact of stroke on morbidity and mortality, the similarity of many approaches to prevention of stroke and these other forms of vascular disease, and the importance of stroke relative to coronary disease in some subpopulations. Non-US guidelines often include stroke patients among others at high cardiovascular risk and include stroke as a relevant outcome along with cardiac end points. Conclusions-Patients with atherosclerotic stroke should be included among those deemed to be at high risk (≥20% over 10 years) of further atherosclerotic coronary events. Inclusion of nonatherosclerotic stroke subtypes remains less certain. For the purposes of primary prevention, ischemic stroke should be included among cardiovascular disease outcomes in absolute risk assessment algorithms. The inclusion of atherosclerotic ischemic stroke as a high-risk condition and the inclusion of ischemic stroke more broadly as an outcome will likely have important implications for prevention of cardiovascular disease, because the number of patients considered to be at high risk would grow substantially.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1998-2027
Number of pages30
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 2012


  • AHA Scientific Statements
  • cardiovascular disease
  • risk assessment
  • risk prediction
  • stroke
  • vascular disease


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