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How is absolute risk different to relative risk?


Absolute risk is a method of determining an individualís overall heart and stroke risk level over a defined time period (for example, 5 or 10 years). In the NVDPA guidelines, absolute risk is defined as the chance of an individual experiencing a cardiovascular event (including a heart attack or stroke), over a 5 year period, expressed as a percentage.

In contrast, relative risk is a ratio of the rate of events in the population exposed to a risk factor compared with the rate among the population not exposed to this risk factor. It tells you little about an individualís actual risk over time.

Management that is based on absolute risk has the potential to deliver treatments to those who can benefit the most, because absolute risk is a more meaningful way of measuring a personís actual risk.


An initiative of the National Vascular Disease Prevention Alliance

Heart Foundation
Stroke Foundation