A screening and treatment programme for middle-aged adults with a family history of heart disease could prevent more than four in 10 premature myocardial infarctions, research has revealed.
According to the University of Glasgow research, immediate family members of patients with premature coronary heart disease are at significantly increased risk of developing the disease.
Siblings are twice as likely to have a heart attack and partners are also at greater risk because of shared factors such as lifestyle.
Researchers found that the 14% of families with a positive family history accounted for 48% of all CHD events and 72% of all premature deaths.
They based findings from data collected in previous studies, which showed that in England and Scotland alone, 7,369 premature heart attacks occur every year in people with a family history of premature heart attacks. Of those, 6,485 might be preventable.
They calculated from the data that screening and treating middle-aged adults with a family history could have prevented 42% of premature heart attacks and 8% of all heart attacks.
BMJ (2007) 335: 481-485