A new risk calculator that can better predict people at high risk of heart disease in later life is set to transform healthcare.
Researchers say the calculator SCORE2 is ready for use across the UK and Europe and will help save thousands of lives every year.
It enables doctors to predict who is at risk of having a heart attack or stroke in the next 10 years with greater accuracy.
People who are flagged as having an increased risk can be put on personalised preventative treatment, such as statins.
They could also receive lifestyle advice to lower their risk, such as increasing exercise and cutting out smoking.
Two hundred experts from across Europe analysed data from 700,000 participants -mostly middle-aged – from 45 different studies.
Those who were recruited by the researchers had no prior history of heart and circulatory disease
But in the 10 years they were followed up, 30,000 had a cardiovascular event – including fatal or non-fatal heart attack or stroke.
The calculator uses known risk factors for heart disease such as age, sex, cholesterol levels, blood pressure and smoking.
It can better estimate the cardiovascular risk amongst younger people, and will improve how treatment is tailored for older people.
The research was funded by the British Heart Foundation and published in the journal European Heart Journal.
Researcher Professor Emanuele Di Angelantonio, from the University of Cambridge, hailed the calculator.
He said: “This risk tool is much more powerful and superior than what doctors have used for decades.
“It will fit seamlessly into current prevention programmes with substantial real-world impact by improving the prevention of cardiovascular diseases before they strike.
Professor Sir Nilesh Samani, medical director at the British Heart Foundation. said it was a “major advance”.
“It will save many more people from developing heart attacks, stroke and heart disease, all of which develop silently over many years and strike without warning,” he said.
“It will be the new gold standard for doctors to determine which patients are at the highest risk of these conditions, and enable tailored treatment and lifestyle advice to be given much earlier.”