Dr Simon Griffin and colleagues from the Medical Research Council's epidemiology unit compared the DoH strategy of screening everyone aged 40-74 for vascular risk with six other selection techniques.
They used data from almost 17,000 patients to model the outcome of different strategies.
They found that using routine practice data to select high-risk patients was just as effective at preventing new cases of heart disease as screening everyone aged 40-74. This would also be cheaper than universal screening, the researchers said.
Writing in the BMJ, Dr Griffin and his team concluded: 'A universal screening programme for cardiovascular disease might prevent an important number of new cardiovascular events in a population, but it may be unrealistic to implement in increasingly resource-constrained health systems.'