Three Risk Factors Put Women at Higher Risk of Heart Attack
Most people know that smoking, overweight, diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol are all risk factors for having a myocardial infarction (heart attack). What they may not know is that some of these risk factors affect women significantly more than they affect men.
In a new study, published in medical journal The BMJ, researchers at the University of Oxford show that three of these risk factors: smoking, diabetes, and high blood pressure, create additional risk of heart attack in women.
Men who smoked at least one pack of cigarettes a day have twice the risk of having a heart attack as men who never smoked. However, women who smoke at least one pack of cigarettes a day have more than three times the risk of women who never smoked. This means that smoking poses 50% more risk of heart attack to a woman than it does to a man. Researchers refer to this as an “excess risk” of 50%.
The excess risk associated with type 1 diabetes is even greater: women with type 1 diabetes have a staggering three times the risk of men with type 1 diabetes, an excess risk of 300%.
Type 2 diabetes is also associated with greater risk, though not as much as type 1 diabetes. A woman with type 2 diabetes has an excess risk of 47%, compared to a man with type II diabetes.
High blood pressure
Hypertension was found to have 80% excess risk in women, compared to men.
Risk factors and aging
Interestingly, both smoking and high blood pressure become lower risks for both men and women as they age. Nevertheless, the excess risk for women remains the same. In other words, it is always more dangerous for women to smoke and have high blood pressure than it is for men.
Because of the persistence of “excess risk,” the researchers note that as women age, their overall risk of myocardial infarction becomes the same as that of men, despite the fact that men have more heart attacks at earlier ages.
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