Smoking, diabetes raise heart attack risk more in women, study finds

Desiree Burns
November 9, 2018

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

Women who smoke or have high blood pressure or diabetes increase their risk of a heart attack to a far greater degree than men with the same lifestyle, a study indicates.

When comparing the sexes, the team also found that women who smoked more than 20 cigarettes per day had twice the risk of heart attack than men who smoked more than 20 cigarettes a day, while smoking 10 to 19 cigarettes daily was 40 per cent more strongly associated with the risk of heart attack in women than men.

Women are more likely to die as the result of a heart attack, with experts fearing this is because they regard heart issues as "typically male" and do not seek help as quickly when they start noticing symptoms.

However, a high BMI was not found to be linked with an excess risk in women.

The study shows that heart attack risk associated with high blood pressure is 83 percent higher for women than men; with smoking, 55 percent higher. and with Type II diabetes. All the participants had no history of cardiovascular disease at the beginning of the study.

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Although men are at far greater risk of heart attacks overall, cardiovascular disease is the biggest killer of women in the UK. In some cases, there may not be any chest pain at all, especially in women, the elderly and people with diabetes.

"These findings highlight the importance of raising awareness around the risk of heart attack women face", George Institute epidemiologist Dr. Elizabeth Millett said in a news release.

"Women need to be aware they're at risk, but despite lots of campaigns, it's still under the radar of most women".

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

Dr Sanne Peters, who co-authored the study, said: "Women, on average, are more pear-shaped and men, on average, are more apple-shaped".

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