High blood pressure linked to higher risks for women

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

The 471,998 people had no history of cardiovascular disease, were aged 40 to 69 years and 56 per cent of them were women.

The U.S. Office on Women's Health has more on women and heart attack.

Type II diabetes, 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 I diabetes had an nearly three times greater impact in a woman.

High blood pressure was tied to a more than 80 percent higher risk for heart attack risk in women than in men; type 1 diabetes was associated with an nearly three times higher risk in women than in men; and type 2 diabetes with a 47 percent higher risk in women than in men.

According to the researchers, the exact reason why these women with the specific three risk factors were at greater risk than men was not known.

One risk factor - overweight or obesity - was associated with similar increases in heart attack risk in women and men, the researchers reported November 7 in The BMJ.

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".

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The authors believe that theirs is the first study to analyse both absolute and relative differences in heart attack risk between the sexes across a range of risk factors in a general population, but they emphasise that it is an observational study, so no firm conclusions can be drawn about cause and effect.

Deaths from heart attacks are lower among women than man at younger ages, according to the study, and previous research showed that women experience their first heart attack nine years later than men, on average.

The Oxford University team said that unless British women begin to improve their lifestyles, their rate of heart attacks would begin to move towards that of men.

The study has some limitations. Millett also said that the participants examined were of slightly higher socioeconomic status than others in the UK.

Women with hypertension or high blood pressure were an 83 percent higher risk of getting heart attacks compared to men.

There are more than 200,000 hospital visits each year due to heart attacks, the equivalent of one every three minutes.

The researchers from Oxford University said that women may be more susceptible to heart attack if they smoked, had high blood pressure or diabetes because of the way the female body stores fat.

Women need to be aware they're at risk, but despite lots of campaigns, it's still under the radar of most women. A few symptoms - such as unusual tiredness, dizziness or cold sweats - are more common in women than men, she explained. "This is an important reminder that heart disease does not discriminate, so we must shift perceptions that it only affects men".

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