Heart Attack: Risk factors will have more impact on women than men
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Smoking, diabetes and high blood pressure, cardiac risk factors, would be even more dangerous for women than for men.
The Oxford University team surveyed 471,998 men and women aged between 40 and 69 in the British Biobank Group, a major long-term cardiovascular disease study in the UK.
Participants did not have cardiovascular problems at the beginning of the study, followed by an average of seven years.
Published in BMJ, the results show that smoking, diabetes, high blood pressure and body mass index (BMI) greater than 25 increase the risk of heart attack in men and women.
But risk factors appear more dangerous in women than in men.
If people who smoke twice as likely as those who have never smoked, smokers would face the risk of heart attack three times more than those who have never smoked, which researchers say is a "risky risk".
Researchers also found that women who smoked more than 20 cigarettes a day were twice as likely to have heart attacks as men who smoked more than 20 cigarettes a day. Between 10 and 19 cigarettes a day, the risk of heart attack would be 40% higher for women than for men.
This rise in risk was also observed in women with high blood pressure or diabetes (type I and type II). High blood pressure is associated with 80% higher risk of heart attack in women, while type I diabetes exhibits three times more risk than men (47% higher for type II).
However, BMI is not associated with greater risk for women.
Researchers have found that increased risk is persistent at age.
"Overall, men are more likely to have a heart attack than women, but major risk factors increase the risk of women than men, and women are reporting on these unfavorable risk factors." explains researcher Elizabeth Millett, in charge of this study.
"These observations show the importance of raising awareness of the risk of heart attack women face, ensuring that women, like men, have access to diabetes and stress management, as well as just to stop smoking," says Dr Millett.