High blood pressure linked to higher risks for women

09 November 2018 08:47

Smoking could lead to an increased heart attack risk in women

Smoking could lead to an increased heart attack risk in women

Woman who smoke, have diabetes, or high blood pressure are more likely to suffer a heart attack than men with the same risk factors, a new study claims.

Led by a team of Oxford University scientists, the study found that women who smoke heavily are twice as likely to have a heart attack than men who smoke the same number of cigarettes.

It's a similar story with high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes, with women living with the conditions at a greater risk of heart attacks than men.

Unhealthy lifestyles

The survey found that, overall, men are more likely to suffer a heart attack than women, with the average age of first attacks also lower in males than females. But the findings suggest this difference decreases if woman lead unhealthy lifestyles.

Researchers have warned that heart disease is "still under the radar of most women" and called for equal access to treatments.

Published in the British Medical Journal, the study says: "Although the risk of (heart attack) is, on average, about three times higher in men than women, women tend to 'catch up' to some extent if they have certain cardiovascular risk factors.

"These findings also highlight the importance of equitable access to guideline-based treatments for diabetes and hypertension, and to weight loss and smoking cessation programmes for women and men in middle and older age."

Life-threatening illnesses

The researchers analysed data from the UK Biobank, a vast study of adults in Britain that aims to improve the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of serious and life-threatening illnesses.

The Oxford study removed those who had a history of cardiovascular disease before they signed up and scanned data on the remaining group for fatal and non-fatal myocardial infarction - heart attack.

They investigated heart attack sufferers for six risk factors; blood pressure, smoking status, diabetes, body mass index (BMI), irregular heart beat and socioeconomic status.

The data showed women who smoked more than 20 cigarettes a day had twice the relative risk of heart attack than equivalent men.

Smoking between 10 and 19 cigarettes a day, having type 2 diabetes or first and second stage hypertension was 40% more strongly associated with the risk of heart attack in women than men.

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

Just over 500,000 participants aged between 40 and 69 were recruited for the study between 2006 and 2010.

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