More than 40 per cent of premature heart attacks would be avoided were screening introduced for middle-aged people with a family history of coronary heart disease (CHD), according to an article in the British Medical Journal.
Siblings of heart attack patients are most at risk, while the threat increases further if more than one member of the family has CHD.
Using data from previous studies, the researchers estimated that in England and Scotland alone 7,369 premature heart attacks occur each year, of which 6,485 might be preventable.
Since lifestyle factors such as smoking and blood pressure affect the chances of developing CHD, they calculated that screening and treating middle aged adults with a family history could have prevented 42 per cent of premature heart attacks and eight per cent of all heart attacks.
The study also revealed that the partners of those with CHD were more at risk because they tend to have similar lifestyles.