According to a new study published in BMJ, high blood pressure, smoking, and diabetes increase the risk of a woman's heart attack more than these factors pose a human risk.
According to researcher Elisabeth Millett, an epidemiologist at the University of Oxford Institute of Health at the University of Georgia, the male heart rate is still three times higher than that of women. However, the study found that these three individual factors – smoking, diabetes and high blood pressure – are more likely to be associated with a heart attack in women, which suggests that women should be more informed about heart disease.
Mileta's work is part of a wider research bank on gender disparities in non-communicable diseases by the Georgia Institute.
"It strengthens the need for people to remember to look for women and men in researching heart attacks," Millets said.
As her latest work is an observational study that can not explain the causes, Millet emphasized the need for more research into why this gender gap exists.
Almost half a million British people who were involved in the UK were studied. They were between 40 and 69 and were recruited from 2006 to 2010. Millet's team was seven years old. Of the 471,998 participants, none of them had cardiovascular disease. The researchers concluded that the first 5,108 of these people, of whom 28.8% were women, were among these people during the study.
High blood pressure was a major factor; it increased the risk of a woman's heart attack by 83%, which was a risk to men. Smoking increased the risk of a woman's heart attack by 55%, while type 2 diabetes – related to malnutrition – was 47% higher for women than for men with a heart attack.
Studies have identified some risk factors that affect women at a higher level than men. The Mileta study assessed the effects of three such risk factors and found that their disproportionate effect on women remains for all ages.
According to a study, death from heart attacks in women is lower than for younger parents, and previous studies have shown that women are on average first exposed to nine years in comparison to men.
Milletts explained that, with the aging population, it would probably see "women fighting men" for heart attack rates. This would lead to "a further significant additional burden on society and health resources," the authors of the study said.
The study has some limitations. The UK Biobank project consists primarily of white actors, which makes it difficult to aggregate results for other groups. Milets also said that the tested participants had a slightly higher socio-economic status than the others in the United Kingdom.
"Depending on your gender, risk factors such as high blood pressure, smoking, and diabetes increase the risk of heart attack. These findings should not diverge from concerted efforts to better detect and manage risk factors that can be changed," Professor Metin Avkiran wrote in an e-mail, Associate Medical Director of the British Heart Foundation.
According to the British Heart Foundation, about 188,000 visits to hospitals every year are caused by a heart attack. According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately 735,000 Americans each year have a heart attack.
"We want women to be better aware that heart attacks are taking place both for women and for men," Millet said. She believes that women lack understanding of heart disease, as men are more affected by them.
The study also emphasizes that physicians should be alert if their women are older, smokers, have diabetes or high blood pressure. As researchers point out, doctors should ensure that women and men have equal access to healthcare programs that relate to these conditions.
Milets added that understanding is crucial, as men and women with heart attack symptoms may vary. She explained some symptoms, such as unusual fatigue, dizziness or cold sweating.
"It is extremely important that everyone has equal access to the best advice and treatment regardless of age, gender or socio-economic status," writes Avkiran. "It's an important reminder that heart disease is not discriminatory, so we have to change the belief that it only affects men."