Although most patients who experience a coronary heart disease (CHD) event have one or more of the conventional risk factors for atherosclerosis, so do many people who have not yet experienced such an event. Therefore, predictive models based on conventional risk factors have a lower than desired accuracy, providing a stimulus to search for new tools to refine CHD risk prediction. In particular, there is intense interest in evaluating circulating biomarkers related to the atherosclerotic process that might add to our ability to better predict CHD risk. One such group of biomarkers was termed conditional risk factors in an American Heart Association/American College of Cardiology statement in 1999. The conditional risk factors include homocysteine, fibrinogen, lipoprotein(a), low-density lipoprotein particle size, and C-reactive protein. This review updates the conditional risk factors. The main focus is on the potential utility of these risk factors, which are currently available to clinicians, in the prediction of CHD risk in asymptomatic persons. The putative mechanisms of risk, available assays, evidence for association with CHD, and the clinical implications thereof are discussed for each of the risk factors.
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