People without heart disease should be given cholesterol-lowering drugs statins, according to research that claims they could significantly reduce the risk of heart attacks.
Professor Roger Boyle, the government's heart tsar, has also backed plans to use the statins to prevent ill health in the future.
The latest research, published online in the British Medical Journal, advised that people who do not have signs of heart disease but who do have other risk factors, such as a family history of the disease, high blood pressure and diabetes, should be given the drugs.
A total of 10 trials tracked the health of more than 70,000 patients for an average of four years. Statins cut the number of deaths from all causes during the four-year period by 12% in patients without heart disease and cut the risk of events such as heart attacks by 30%.
The researchers, from the Erasmus Medical Centre in Rotterdam, suggested targeting men over 65 with known risks or older women with risks like diabetes.