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

3D illustration of the female human heart anatomy

Researchers who examined data for half a million Britons found that the risk of heart disease for such women was between 1.5 and 2 times higher than for men.

Meanwhile high blood pressure increased the female risk of heart attack by an extra 83 per cent relative to male, and for diabetes the relative increased risk was 47 per cent.

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 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".

The study, led by Oxford University researchers, tracked almost 500,000 people aged 40-69 enrolled in the UK Biobank database.

An excess risk was also found among women with high blood pressure, and Type I and Type II diabetes.

Biological factors may be a reason.

"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.

Unhealthy lifestyles increase the risk of a heart attack for women far more than they do for men, researchers warn.

Women with type 2 diabetes, for example, are 96 per cent more likely to have a heart attack than women without.

She said, in the future, with an ageing population, women could start to have a similar overall rate of heart attacks to men.

And the authors said women with diabetes, high blood pressure and who smoke, "should be considered at a level of risk comparable to many men".

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