Washington D.C. [USA], April 3 : Dear ladies, avoid smoking, as a study finds females, especially below 50, are at the highest risk of serious heart attack, compared to both non-smokers and male smokers of the same age.
The study also finds that young female smokers are nearly 13 times more likely to suffer a serious heart attack as female coronary arteries are smaller in calibre and may be more prone to complete blockage when blood clots.
The research, carried out at the University of Sheffield and South Yorkshire Cardiothoracic Centre (SYCC), involved nearly 3,000 patients undergoing treatment for acute ST-segment elevation myocardial infarction or STEMI - a medical term for a major heart attack - at SYCC.
"The finding that younger women [those 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 consultant interventional cardiologist Dr Ever Grech from University of Sheffield.
"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," Grech added.
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.
"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," Grech added.
Regardless of age or gender, smokers were found to be five times more likely to suffer an acute heart attack.
The research was presented at the American College of Cardiology's annual Scientific Sessions in Washington DC.
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