Primary prevention of CVD (cardiovascular disease) is mainly based on the assessment of individual cardiovascular risk factors. However, often, only the most important (conventional) cardiovascular risk factors are determined, and every level of risk factor exposure is associated with a substantial variation in the amount of atherosclerosis. Measuring the effect of risk factor exposure over time directly in the vessel might (partially) overcome these shortcomings. Several non-invasive imaging techniques have the potential to accomplish this, each of these techniques focusing on a different stage of the atherosclerotic process. In this review, we aim to define the current role of various of these non-invasive measurements of atherosclerosis in individual cardiovascular risk prediction, taking into account the most recent insights about validity and reproducibility of these techniques and the results of recent prospective outcome trials. We conclude that, although the clinical application of FMD (flow-mediated dilation) and PWA (pulse wave analysis) in individual cardiovascular risk prediction seems far away, there may be a role for PWV (pulse wave velocity) and IMT (intima-media thickness) measurements in the near future.

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