Smoking, diabetes & hypertension spike heart attack risk in women

London: Although men are at greater risk of heart attack than women, unhealthy lifestyles such as smoking, besides diabetes and hypertension increase the risk of heart attack in the fairer sex than in their male counterparts, a new study has found.

The study showed that an elevated risk of heart attack was found among women with high blood pressure, and Type-1 and Type-2 diabetes, but not with a high body mass index (BMI).

“Overall, more men experience heart attacks than women. However, several major risk factors increase the risk in women more than they increase the risk in men, so women with these factors experience a relative disadvantage,” said Elizabeth Millett, epidemiologist from The George Institute in the UK.

Generally heart attack patients experience symptoms of chest pain, shortness of breath, and pain in their arms, back, neck, jaw or stomach. But, women are likely to experience additional symptoms such as unusual tiredness, dizziness, cold sweats, and nausea or vomiting.

For the study, published in the journal The BMJ, the team examined 4,72,000 participants aged 40 to 69. 56 per cent of them were women.

High blood pressure, diabetes and smoking increased the risk of a heart attack in both sexes but their impact was far greater in women.

Smoking increased a woman’s risk of a heart attack by 55 per cent more than it increased the risk in a man, while hypertension increased a woman’s risk of heart attack by an extra 83 per cent relative to its effect in a man.

Type-2 diabetes, which is usually associated with poor diet and other lifestyle factors, had a 47 per cent greater impact on the heart attack risk of a woman relative to a man, while Type-1 diabetes had an almost three times greater impact in a woman.

“These findings highlight the importance of raising awareness around the risk of heart attack women face, and ensuring that women as well as men have access to guideline-based treatments for diabetes and high BP, and to resources to help them stop smoking,” Millett said.