Background: The EUROASPIRE I, II and III surveys revealed high prevalences of modifiable risk factors in the high priority group of coronary patients all over Europe. The potential to further reduce coronary heart disease (CHD) morbidity and mortality rates is still considerable. We report here on the relative risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD) death associated with common modifiable risk factor levels based on the mortality follow-up of patients participating in the first two EUROASPIRE surveys. We also present a novel simple risk classification system (ERC) that can be used in the management of patients with existing CHD. Methods: The study cohort consisted of a consecutive sample of CHD patients aged <= 70 years from 12 European countries. Baseline data gathered in 1995-2000 through standardized methods, were linked to cardiovascular mortality in 5216 patients according to an accelerated failure time model. Results: During 28,143 person-years of follow-up, 332 patients died from cardiovascular disease denoting a CVD mortality risk of 12.3 per 1000 person-years in men and 10.2 per 1000 person-years in women. In multivariate analysis, fasting glucose, total cholesterol and smoking emerged as the strongest independent modifiable predictors of cardiovascular mortality. Conclusions: The results of the mortality follow-up of the EUROASPIRE I and II CHD patients emphasize the continuing risk from elevated glucose and total cholesterol levels and underline the importance of smoking cessation in secondary prevention. The ERC risk tool that we developed may prove helpful to obtain these goals in the setting of secondary prevention. (c) 2012 Elsevier Ireland Ltd. All rights reserved.