The Expected 30-Year Benefits of Early Versus Delayed Primary Prevention of Cardiovascular Disease by Lipid Lowering

Michael J. Pencina, Karol M. Pencina, Donald Lloyd-Jones, Alberico L. Catapano, George Thanassoulis, Allan D. Sniderman*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

41 Scopus citations


Background: Lipid-lowering recommendations for prevention of atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease rely principally on estimated 10-year risk. We sought to determine the optimal time for initiation of lipid lowering in younger adults as a function of expected 30-year benefit. Methods: Data from 3148 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (2009-2016) participants, age 30 to 59 years, not eligible for lipid-lowering treatment recommendation under the most recent US guidelines, were analyzed. We estimated the absolute and relative impact of lipid lowering as a function of age, age at initiation, and non-high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL-C) level on the expected rates of atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease over the succeeding 30 years. We modeled expected risk reductions based on shorter-term effects observed in statin trials (model A) and longer-term benefits based on Mendelian randomization studies (model B). Results: In both models, potential reductions in predicted 30-year atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease risk were greater with older age and higher non-HDL-C level. Immediate initiation of lipid lowering (ie, treatment for 30 years) in 40- to 49-year-old patients with non-HDL-C ≥160 mg/dL would be expected to reduce their average predicted 30-year risk of 17.1% to 11.6% (model A; absolute risk reduction [ARR], 5.5%) or 6.5% (model B; ARR 10.6%). Delaying lipid lowering by 10 years (treatment for 20 years) would result in residual 30-year risk of 12.7% (A; ARR 4.4) or 9.9% (B; ARR 7.2%) and delaying by 20 years (treatment for 10 years) would lead to expected mean residual risk of 14.6% (A; ARR 2.6%) or 13.9% (B; ARR 3.2%). The slope of the achieved ARR as a function of delay in treatment was also higher with older age and higher non-HDL-C level. Conclusions: Substantial reduction in expected atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease risk in the next 30 years is achievable by intensive lipid lowering in individuals in their 40s and 50s with non-HDL-C ≥160 mg/dL. For many, the question of when to start lipid lowering might be more relevant than whether to start lipid lowering.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)827-837
Number of pages11
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 1 2020


  • lipids
  • prevention & control
  • risk

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine
  • Physiology (medical)


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