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Smoking, diabetes & hypertension spike heart attack risk in women

10 November 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.

The excess risk of heart attack among people smoking 20 or more cigarettes per day when compared with people of the same sex who have never smoked was twice as big in women as in men.

To look more closely at this association, researchers looked at data on nearly half a million people enrolled in the UK Biobank - a database of biological information from British adults.

Eating 30 per cent or more of a day's calories after 6 p.m. was associated with a 23 % higher risk of developing high blood pressure and a 19 % higher risk of becoming pre-diabetic.

The gap in heart attack rates between women and men is set to close because unhealthy living is more unsafe for the female cardiovascular system, a study has found.

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

Type 1 and type 2 diabetes both had a greater impact on the heart attack risk of women compared to men, the study found.

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Millett added that awareness is crucial, as heart attack symptoms can differ for men and women. But the findings suggest this difference decreases if woman lead unhealthy lifestyles.

But now the incidence in men remains the same, but the frequency of heart attacks among women is increasing. According to lead researchers Dr Elizabeth Millett, an epidemiologist at the George Institute for Global Health, University of Oxford, "Heart disease also affects women and this needs to be recognised".

Women who smoked were three times more likely to have a heart attack than women who did not smoke - but in men, smoking only doubled their risk.

"These differences in fat distribution have a different impact on the metabolic system and might explain some of the sex difference seen for diabetes". The researchers found that 5,081 of those people had their first heart attack during the course of the study, 28.8% of them women. Studies have shown that women are 15 percent less likely to be treated same as men for diabetes in UK.

"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".

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

"This strengthens the need for people to keep in mind to look at women and men when studying heart attacks", Millett said. "It's a complicated, long-term thing to work out, probably caused by a combination of factors - both biological and social". Doctors must ensure that women and men have equal access to health care programs addressing these conditions, researchers said. Professor Metin Avkiran, of the British Heart Foundation in a statement said, "This is an important reminder that heart disease does not discriminate, so we must shift perceptions that it only affects men".

Smoking, diabetes & hypertension spike heart attack risk in women