BACKGROUND: Primary prevention should be targeted at individuals with high global cardiovascular risk, but research is lacking on how best to identify such individuals in the general population. Family history is a good proxy measure of global risk and may provide an efficient mechanism for identifying high risk individuals. The aim was to test the feasibility of using patients with premature cardiovascular disease to recruit family members as a means of identifying and screening high-risk individuals. FINDINGS: We recruited family members of 50 patients attending a cardiology clinic for premature coronary heart disease (CHD). We compared their cardiovascular risk with a general population control group, and determined their perception of their risk and current level of screening. 103 (36%) family members attended screening (27 siblings, 48 adult offspring and 28 partners). Five (5%) had prevalent CHD. A significantly higher percentage had an ASSIGN risk score >20% compared with the general population (13% versus 2%, p < 0.001). Only 37% of family members were aware they were at increased risk and only 50% had had their blood pressure and serum cholesterol level checked in the previous three years. CONCLUSIONS: Patients attending hospital for premature CHD provide a mechanism to contact family members and this can identify individuals with a high global risk who are not currently screened.
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