Sheffield researchers find heart attack risk is 13 times higher for women who smoke

Sheffield researchers find heart attack risk is 13 times higher for women who smoke
Sheffield researchers find heart attack risk is 13 times higher for women who smoke
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Young female smokers are nearly 13 times more likely to suffer a serious heart attack than non-smokers, a new study by Sheffield researchers has found.

Young female smokers are nearly 13 times more likely to suffer a serious heart attack than non-smokers, a new study by Sheffield researchers has found.

Women under 50 were at the highest risk compared to both non-smokers and male smokers of the same age, according to researchers based in the city.

Male smokers aged 18 to 50 are 8.5 times more likely to suffer a heart attack than non-smokers of the same age, significantly lower than women.

Previous studies have revealed the impact of smoking on a higher risk of heart attacks. However, this is the first to establish a difference in gender.

The research, carried out at the University of Sheffield and South Yorkshire Cardiothoracic Centre based at the Northern General Hospital, involved nearly 3,000 patients undergoing treatment for a major heart attack.

Researchers said they were 'surprised' at the results.

"The finding that younger women under 50 had a significantly greater likelihood of a major heart attack than younger men was a surprise as there is a general belief that cyclical female hormones provide a degree of cardiovascular protection," said Dr Ever Grech, consultant interventional cardiologist at Sheffield Teaching Hospitals.

"However, our study indicates that if women smoke, this protection is easily overridden. This study also showed that when hormonal protection is no longer present in post-menopausal women, there was an even greater gender difference in heart-attack risk between male and female smokers."

While women under 50 ran the highest risk, the gender divide was greatest in older smokers.

Women smokers aged 50 to 65 are 11 times more likely to have a heart attack, while men of the same age are only 4.6 times more likely than their non-smoking peers.

Authors of the study said this could be explained by the fact that men of this age group are more likely to suffer heart attacks than women regardless of whether or not they smoke.

Dr Grech added: "The reasons for the gender differences in heart-attack risk across all age groups are unclear and likely to be complex. One possible theory is that female coronary arteries are smaller in calibre and may be more prone to complete blockage when blood clots form over pre-existing fatty deposits within the artery wall.

"There may be other factors too, but the end result is a very serious and life-threatening heart-attack event. Our previous study has shown that 50 per cent of these are directly attributable to smoking and are therefore readily preventable."

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