BACKGROUND - We hypothesized that individuals with low 10-year but high lifetime cardiovascular disease risk would have a greater burden of subclinical atherosclerosis than those with low 10-year but low lifetime risk.
METHODS AND RESULTS - We included 2988 individuals < or = 50 years of age at examination year 15 from the Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults (CARDIA) study and 1076 individuals < or = 50 of age at study entry from the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis (MESA). The 10-year risk and lifetime risk for cardiovascular disease were estimated for each participant, permitting stratification into 3 groups: low 10-year (<10%)/low lifetime (<39%) risk, low 10-year (<10%)/high lifetime risk (> or = 39%), and high 10-year risk (> or = 10%) or diagnosed diabetes mellitus. Baseline levels and change in levels of subclinical atherosclerosis (coronary artery calcium or carotid intima-media thickness) were compared across risk strata. Among participants with low 10-year risk (91% of all participants) in CARDIA, those with a high lifetime risk compared with low lifetime risk had significantly greater common (0.83 versus 0.80 mm in men; 0.79 versus 0.75 mm in women) and internal (0.85 versus 0.80 mm in men; 0.80 versus 0.76 mm in women) carotid intima-media thickness, higher coronary artery calcium prevalence (16.6% versus 9.8% in men; 7.1% versus 2.3% in women), and significantly greater incidence of coronary artery calcium progression (22.3% versus 15.4% in men; 8.7% versus 5.3% in women). Similar results were observed in MESA.
CONCLUSIONS - Individuals with low 10-year but high lifetime risk have a greater subclinical disease burden and greater incidence of atherosclerotic progression compared with individuals with low 10-year and low lifetime risk, even at younger ages.