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In Italy, the European SCORE Project risk score is the recommended tool for cardiovascular disease risk stratification in the primary prevention setting. Among non-diabetic subjects aged 40 to 64, the model estimates the 10-year probability of death due to cardiovascular disease based on individual's age, total cholesterol, blood pressure and smoking status. A growing body of evidence suggests that in middle-aged adults this stratification may suffer from two major drawbacks. First, mortality risk severely underestimates the global burden of disease incidence. Second, younger individuals and women are likely to be classified in the “low 10-year risk” category despite the presence of risk factors.

The latest European and American guidelines have eventually introduced the assessment of long-term risk of disease as additional tool to improve risk communication and increase risk awareness. Long-term risk scores were first developed in the US and in the UK, i.e. in high-risk populations. In low-incidence populations, these models may have poor calibration and discrimination ability, as shown for the Framingham equation. Therefore, our research team developed and validated a 20-year risk score for the Italian population. As part of a collaborative study with the Italian Health Institute, we pooled 7 population-based cohorts of middle-aged individuals recruited in Northern and in Central Italy in mid 1980 s and early 1990 s following a similar protocol with standardized MONICA procedures. Overall, more than 10500 men and women 35–69 years old and free of CVD at baseline, who developed 830 first major atherosclerotic events (coronary heart disease or ischemic strokes) during a median 17 years of follow-up. The score was based on traditional risk factors (age, blood lipids, systolic blood pressure and treatment, smoking and diabetes). In addition, social status and family history of coronary heart disease did improve risk prediction, at least in men. Finally we showed that the use of long-term risk scores has the potential to improve risk stratification strategies currently in use in primary prevention. On-going research is exploring the predictive role of biomarkers of disease, in particular troponin I, as well as of psycho-social factors, including depression, job strain and sleep disturbances.

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