The objective of this article is to review the evidence basis for short-term risk assessments of overall coronary heart disease (CHD) burden as compared with lifetime risk estimates of CHD, based on the current medical literature. We reviewed literature published in the last 6 years using the terms "cardiovascular prevention," "Framingham risk scoring," "lifetime risk," and "cardiovascular risk assessment," and subsequently evaluated 98 publications to determine the variation in these approaches to estimate cardiovascular risk factors and impact on clinical decision making. The current evidence base suggests that lifetime risk estimates offset the significant impact of age on traditional, short-term risk estimates of cardiovascular risk. We conclude that the use of lifetime risk estimates may be more clinically meaningful than traditional, short-term risk estimates to assess an individual's overall risk burden, and may prevent the potential delay of therapeutic interventions to reduce cardiovascular events. For primary care, this difference may be of relevance to patients and should be communicated to them.