High heart attack risk for female smokers under 50

25 June 2019, 12:29 | Updated: 25 June 2019, 12:30

Quit Smoking

Researchers in Sheffield are claiming young women who smoke face the highest risk of having a major heart attack.

Authors compiled data for all patients in South Yorkshire who had suffered Heart Attacks between January 2009 and July 2014. That was 3,343.

Researchers have previously identified smoking as a cause of Heart Attacks in nearly 50 percent of all cases. However, none have quantified and compared the incidence associated with smoking between genders and within different age groups.

The percentage who were current smokers was similar between genders, with 46.8 percent of female patients and 47.6 percent of male patients.

They found that smoking increases Heart Attacks risk in all patients, regardless of age or gender; however, the risk is higher in females compared to males at all ages. The largest relative risk difference between men and women smokers was in the 50-64 years old group, but the highest risk increase in both genders was in the 18-49 years group-the youngest group.

Female smokers in this age group had a greater than 13 times higher risk of Heart Attacks compared to their non-smoking female contemporaries. Young male smokers had an 8.6 times increased risk.

The authors of the study proposed several possible reasons why, including that smoking may lower levels of serum estrogen. Estrogens, can have protective effects against buildup of fats, cholesterol and other substances within artery walls that can restrict blood flow.

The researchers said it is highly likely that smoking perpetuates some of these events and imposes a greater increase risk for women.

However, researchers also found it is possible to substantially reverse the risk by quitting smoking.

"Our study found that smoking cessation, regardless of age or gender, reduces STEMI risk to that of a never smoker, possibly within a month," said Ever Grech, MD, senior author of the study and consultant interventional cardiologist and TAVI lead at South Yorkshire Cardiothoracic Centre, Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, Sheffield, U.K.

"Patients who smoke merit encouragement to give up their habit, and this study adds quantitative evidence to the massive benefits of doing so."