Prevalence and Significance of Risk Enhancing Biomarkers in the United States Population at Intermediate Risk for Atherosclerotic Disease; Risk Enhancing Factors in Intermediate Risk for ASCVD

Gloria L. Vega, Jijia Wang, Scott M. Grundy


J Clin Lipidol

First published: November 30, 2021  DOI: 10.1016/j.jacl.2021.11.009



Pooled cohort equations (PCEs) estimate 10-year risk for atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease (ASCVD) in US adults. One use is to guide statin eligibility. However, PCEs risk estimate is inaccurate in some US subpopulations.


Recent cholesterol guidelines proposed addition of risk enhancing factors to improve risk assessment for selection of statin therapy. This study examines frequencies of several risk enhancing biomarkers in NHANES subjects at intermediate risk (7.5 -<20% 10-year risk for ASCVD) and considers how they may be used to better assess risk for individuals.


Prevalence of the following biomarkers were determined; elevations in apolipoprotein B-containing lipoproteins, i.e., LDL cholesterol (LDL-C) (160-189 mg/dL), non-HDL-cholesterol (non-HDL-C) (190-219 mg/dL), or total apolipoprotein B (apoB) (≥ 130 mg/dL), serum triglyceride (≥175 mg/dL), hemoglobin A1c (5.7-6.4%), high sensitivity C-reactive protein (2-10 mg/L), and waist circumference ≥ 102 cm, and abnormal estimated glomerular filtration rate (15 – ≤ 60 mg/min/1.73 m2).


25% of NHANES population had intermediate risk. In this subpopulation, 85% had ≥ 1 biomarkers–similarly in women and men—with a third having ≥3 abnormal markers. Frequencies were not age-related, except in those 40-49 years, in whom > 40% had ≥3 abnormal biomarkers. It made little difference whether LDL-C, non-HDL-C or apoB was used as the atherogenic lipoprotein.


Three or more enhancing risk factors in intermediate risk subjects can complement PCE-estimated 10-year risk and guide the patient-provider discussion toward use of lipid-lowering medication. Future research is needed to integrate risk estimates by PCE and multiple risk enhancers.

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