Some heart attack risk factors affect women more dramatically than men

Smoking, high blood pressure and diabetes increase the risk of heart attacks for women at far higher rates than for men, according to new research.

High blood pressure was associated with a more than 80 per cent higher risk of heart attack in women than in men, while Type I diabetes was associated with an nearly three times higher risk in women, and Type II diabetes a 47 per cent higher risk.

'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'.

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.

The researchers explained that women may be more susceptible to heart attack because of the way the female body stores fat.

High blood pressure increased a woman's risk by an extra 83% relative to its effect in a man.

"Overall, more men experience heart attacks than women". For example, type 2 diabetes, which is usually linked to poor diet and lifestyle factors, may have a different impact on the female heart to the male one.

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. In some cases, there may not be any chest pain at all, especially in women, the elderly and people with diabetes.

Elizabeth Millett, from the George Institute of Global Health at Oxford University, said the focus on men meant women were not aware of the danger and so lacked preventive care.

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

'It's a complicated, long-term thing to work out, probably caused by a combination of factors - both biological and social'.

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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