US researchers say they have developed a more accurate method of predicting if a woman is at risk of heart disease.
A key protein can help predict the risk of heart disease
Current methods were developed 40 years ago and often fail to pick up women who are at risk.
The Reynolds Risk Score considers more than just traditional risk factors such as age, blood pressure, cholesterol level and smoking.
Featured in the Journal of the American Medical Association, it aims to predict the 10-year risk of heart disease.
New factors taken into consideration include parental history of heart attack before the age of 60, and levels of C-reactive protein, which has been linked to clogged arteries and damage to blood vessels in the heart.
The researchers, from Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, hope their work will lead to more at-risk women being identified and offered drugs, and lifestyle interventions to reduce their risk.
They found that the current risk assessment measures failed to spot up to 20% of women who suffered from heart disease, but did not display any of the traditional risk factors.
When they applied the new system, they found many women rated under the old measures of having a 10-year risk of heart disease of less than 20% had to be reclassified. In some the risk was increased, but in others it came down.
Roger Blumenthal from the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore, welcomed the new assessment system.
He said: "Physicians should incorporate these factors into their testing and decision-making about which women are most likely to develop cardiovascular disease.
"And physicians should intervene with lifestyle changes and drug treatment before symptoms start to appear.
"Our best means of prevention is through early identification of those most at risk."
Judy O'Sullivan, a cardiac nurse at the British Heart Foundation, said it was not standard practice to take account of C-reactive protein levels during assessment in primary care in the UK.
She said various assessment methods were used in the UK, but none was perfect.
The key, she said, was to get women to present themselves for assessment in the first place.
"Many women don't recognise heart disease as being an issue for them," she said.
"In women it tends to be an older person's disease, and quite often women have developed other conditions which can cause pain, such as diabetes, by the time they develop heart problems, so they put any pain down to something else."