Most people know that smoking, overweight, diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol are all risk factors for having a myocardial infarction (heart attack). What they may not know is that some of these risk factors affect women significantly more than they affect men.

In a new study, published in medical journal The BMJ, researchers at the University of Oxford show that smoking, diabetes, and high blood pressure create greater risk of heart attack in women.


Men who smoked at least one pack of cigarettes a day have twice the risk of having a heart attack as men who never smoked. However, women who smoke at least one pack of cigarettes a day have more than three times the risk of women who never smoked. This means that smoking poses 50% more risk of heart attack to a woman than it does to a man. Researchers refer to this as an “excess riskof 50%.


The excess risk associated with type 1 diabetes is even greater: women with type 1 diabetes have a staggering three times the risk of men with type 1 diabetes, an excess risk of 300%.

Type 2 diabetes also poses greater risk, though not as much as type 1 diabetes. A woman with type 2 diabetes has an excess risk of 47%, compared to a man with type II diabetes.

High blood pressure

Hypertension was found to have 80% excess risk in women.

Risk factors and aging

Interestingly, two of the risk factors mentioned above — smoking and high blood pressure — become lower risks for both men and women as they age. Nevertheless, the excess risk for women remains the same. In other words, it is always more dangerous for women to smoke and have high blood pressure than it is for men.

Because of the persistence of “excess risk,” the researchers note that as women age, their overall risk of myocardial infarction becomes the same as that of men, despite the fact that men have more heart attacks at earlier ages.

Beacon of LIFE, in Oceanport, NJ, is a government-approved PACE program created to provide seniors, their family, caregivers and professional health care providers the flexibility to meet their health care needs while continuing to live in their community.

Beacon of LIFE maintains an interdisciplinary team of professionals who give all our clients, men and women, the individualized, coordinated care they need. Our staff specialize in working with older people, and work with each client and their family to develop the most effective plan of care.

We provide a variety of services, including primary care, hospital care, medical specialty services, prescription drugs, nursing home care, emergency services, home care, physical therapy, occupational therapy, adult day care, recreational therapy, meals, dentistry, nutritional counseling, social services, laboratory / X-ray services, social work counseling, and transportation.

Our care and services allow people who would otherwise need to live in a nursing home to live where they want — in their own communities, in their own homes.

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