Female smokers 'face greater heart risk'

Desiree Burns
November 9, 2018

Women who smoke, have diabetes or high blood pressure increase their risk of a heart attack more than men faced with the same risks, a large study of United Kingdom adults has found.

Researchers who examined data for half a million Britons found that the risk of heart disease for such women was between 1.5 and 2 times higher than for men.

The researchers said unless women begin to improve their lifestyles, their rate of heart attacks would begin to move towards that of men.

Although male current smokers had over twice the risk of a heart attack than men who have never smoked, female current smokers had over three times the risk of a heart attack compared to women who had never smoked, what the researchers refer to as "excess risk".

In an accompanying editorial, the researchers say men may be more prone to heart attacks, but heart disease is the biggest killer of women in the UK.

Over seven years, 5,081 people had their first heart attack and one in three of them were women.

'Our findings suggest that clinicians should be vigilant when their female patients are elderly, smoke, have diabetes, or have high blood pressure.

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"Women should, at least, receive the same access to guideline-based treatments for diabetes and hypertension, and to resources to help lose weight and stop smoking as do men".

However, the risk factors appeared to be stronger for women than men.

They investigated heart attack sufferers, who did not have a history of cardiovascular disease, for six risk factors; blood pressure, smoking status, diabetes, body mass index (BMI), irregular heart beat and socioeconomic status.

Meanwhile having high blood pressure was associated with a more than 80% higher relative risk in women.

High blood pressure was associated with a more than 80 per cent higher risk of heart attack in women than in men, while Type I diabetes was associated with an nearly three times higher risk in women, and Type II diabetes a 47 per cent higher risk.

But while men remain more likely than women to suffer an attack, incidents among women are on the rise.

"It's a complicated, long-term thing to work out, probably caused by a combination of factors - both biological and social", she said.

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