Women's biggest heart attack risk factors

Men in Britain now face a roughly three-times greater risk of suffering a heart attack, known as myocardial infarction, compared to women because, in general, they live unhealthier lives.

Eating 30 per cent or more of a day's calories after 6 p.m. was associated with a 23 % higher risk of developing high blood pressure and a 19 % higher risk of becoming pre-diabetic.

All had no history of cardiovascular disease at the beginning of the study.

"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 blood pressure, and to resources to help them stop smoking", Dr. Millett said.

The researchers also point out that women might be getting poorer care and treatment from healthcare facilities and their heart conditions might be missed largely because of their perceived lower risk of heart disease than men.

The study, of 472,000 participants aged 40-69, found that smoking, diabetes, high blood pressure and having a BMI?25 puts both men and women at increased risk of having a heart attack.

They investigated heart attack sufferers for six risk factors; blood pressure, smoking status, diabetes, body mass index (BMI), irregular heart beat and socioeconomic status.

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The researchers say they do not know why these factors are sex-specific, and no firm conclusions can be drawn about cause and effect, but they do have some theories.

But the rise in risk went even higher for women than men.

Dr. Cindy Grines directs cardiology at Long Island Jewish Medical Center in New Hyde Park, N.Y. She stressed that heart disease remains the No. 1 killer of American women, especially as the natural cardio-protective effects of estrogen fades after menopause. "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 lead author Dr Elizabeth Millett, an epidemiologist at the George Institute for Global Health, University of Oxford. This may affect their hearts worse than male hearts, they explain.

In the United Kingdom, women with diabetes are 15 per cent less likely than men with diabetes to receive all recommended care processes and may be less likely to achieve target values when treated for cardiovascular risk factors.

Women need to be aware they're at risk, but despite lots of campaigns, it's still under the radar of most women.

"Rising prevalence of lifestyle-associated risk factors, coupled with the ageing population, is likely to result in women having a more similar overall rate of myocardial infarction to men than is the case at present, with a subsequent significant additional burden on society and health resources", the authors warned. Professor Metin Avkiran, of the British Heart Foundation in a statement said, "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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