The research found that endothelial dysfunction – a systemic pathological state of blood vessel lining, can predict coronary heart disease risk.

According to researchers, by identifying this new marker in patients, doctors may be able to intervene early to prevent the progression of heart disease.

The research, which was conducted at four sites in Canada, followed 1574 healthy firefighters over a period of 10 years.

At the beginning of the study each firefighter had an ultrasound of his brachial artery in the arm to measure blood vessel function, and was then followed every six months for the 10 year period.

Co-Investigator of the study Francois Charbonneau said the information obtained by these simple tests improves the ability to detect, among healthy individuals, those who will go on to have vascular events, with more precision than if just traditional risk factors are considered.

"More research is required to see if these tests can be used in the population at large," Charbonneau said.