Early Atherosclerosis Clinic

By Mayo Clinic Staff

Mayo Clinic is one of the few medical centers in the nation with a comprehensive diagnostic and treatment program for patients at risk for early atherosclerosis and for those who have already developed atherosclerosis at a relatively young age. Using the latest technology and testing available, the cardiologists in the Early Atherosclerosis Clinic can refine cardiovascular treatment plans and more effectively manage the risk of atherosclerosis in their patients.

In spite of remarkable advances in diagnosis and treatment, atherosclerotic vascular disease continues to pose a major public health burden. Coronary heart disease due to atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries) remains the No. 1 cause of death in the United States. Early onset of the disease is particularly devastating because serious complications can affect patients in the prime of their lives. In addition, peripheral arterial disease, also a result of atherosclerosis, is associated with increased risk of death and poor quality of life. Early onset of this disease can severely limit functional capacity of affected individuals.

Early Atherosclerosis Clinic patients

The Early Atherosclerosis Clinic serves mainly three types of patients:

  • Patients who have developed any manifestation of atherosclerosis including heart attack, stroke and peripheral arterial disease at a relatively young age (under age 55 in men, under age 65 in women).
  • Asymptomatic patients who have a family history of early atherosclerosis (a first-degree relative with heart attack, stroke or peripheral arterial disease prior to age 55 in men, or prior to age 65 in women) and are concerned about their risk of developing the disease.
  • Patients with elevated levels of novel risk factors including C-reactive protein (CRP), fibrinogen, lipoprotein(a) and homocysteine.

Traditionally, patients are evaluated using conventional risk factors such as elevated high blood pressure, cholesterol, diabetes and smoking history. However, conventional assessments ignore family history, obesity and other risk factors.

Because almost half of all people who have heart attacks have no prior symptoms of coronary artery disease, Mayo Clinic researchers have developed additional tests to measure novel (new) risk factors and arterial function, with the goal of early detection and treatment. Only a few medical centers are equipped to perform tests for these novel risk factors, and Mayo Clinic combines expanded testing with a comprehensive cardiology consultation and a personalized treatment plan.

Services offered

The services offered by the Early Atherosclerosis Clinic include:

  • Novel risk factors — The novel cardiovascular risk panel measures levels of novel markers in the blood associated with increased risk of early vascular disease, including C-reactive protein, fibrinogen, homocysteine and lipoprotein(a).
  • Arterial function tests — These tests assess arterial health including the function of the endothelium (the inner lining of arteries), the stiffness of arteries and the presence of plaque in the carotid arteries.
  • CT scan of the heart — This test measures the amount of calcium in the coronary arteries, an indicator of plaque buildup. This test is generally limited to asymptomatic patients with family history of heart disease because symptomatic patients are known to have arterial plaque.
  • Cardiology consultation — Patients meet with a cardiologist who specializes in assessment of cardiovascular risk and treatment of novel risk factors. The physician reviews test results and recommends preventive measures, lifestyle changes and medications such as lipid-lowering drugs and, if necessary, procedures such as angioplasty or surgery.

Research becomes practice

Researchers at Mayo Clinic helped develop the novel cardiovascular risk marker panel and arterial function tests, both valuable in assessing patients' cardiovascular risk. Current research is also focused on newer methods of detecting patients at risk for early-onset cardiovascular disease and events, and how those patients can benefit from early, aggressive intervention. A major focus is on assessing the utility of genetic susceptibility variants to refine cardiovascular risk prediction.


Patients may be referred by their primary physicians, or may make appointments on their own. To schedule an appointment in the Early Atherosclerosis Clinic, call 507-266-9417 Monday to Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Central time.

Physician staff