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Smoking, hypertension and diabetes increase the risk of myocardial infarction in women: Study


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Representative imageROMEO GACAD / AFP / Getty Images

A new study has shown that high blood pressure, smoking and diabetes make women more likely to risk myocardial infarction compared to men.

The rate of heart attacks in men is still three times higher than in women, according to researchers at Oxford University. However, the study identified that the three individual factors – smoking, diabetes and hypertension – are more likely to be associated with cardiovascular attacks in women, indicating the need for more awareness actions directed towards women in heart disease. The results were found in the magazine BMJ.

Nearly half a million British people who belonged to the British biobank were studied. They were between 40 and 69 years old and were recruited between 2006 and 2010. They were followed on average by seven years by researchers. Of the 471,998 participants, there was no history of cardiovascular disease. The researchers found that 5,081 of these people had their first heart attack during the study, 28.8 percent of them women.

High blood pressure was the leading factor; It increased a woman's risk of heart attack by 83 percent more than that that increased the risk of a man. Smoking increased the woman's risk of heart attack 55 percent, while Type 2 diabetes – associated with a bad diet – had a 47 percent greater impact on heart attacks among women compared to men.

Studies have identified certain risk factors that affect women to a greater extent than men. Millett's study examined the effects of three such risk factors and found that their disproportionate impact on women remained over age.

Deaths from heart attacks are lower among women than men of younger ages, according to the study, and previous research showed that women experience their first heart attack nine years later than men on average. Combined with an aging population, this is likely to see "women catching men" in terms of myocardial infarction, "Millett explained. This would lead to "a subsequent significant additional burden on society and health issues," the authors noted.

The study also highlights the need for doctors to be vigilant when their female patients are older, smoke, diabetes or have high blood pressure. Doctors must ensure that women and men have equal access to healthcare programs that deal with these conditions, researchers say. They also added that awareness is crucial because heart attack symptoms may differ for men and women.

Some symptoms – such as unusual fatigue, dizziness or cold sweating – are more common in women than men, she explained.

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