But we rarely see female victims of heart attack – despite the fact that things like smoking, high blood pressure and diabetes put women at greater risk of heart attack than they do men.
A new study has found that while men may suffer more heart attacks than women in general, certain risk factors have more of an impact on women.
Scientists looked at data on almost half a million people in the UK.
None of the 471,998 of the people aged 40 to 69-years-old who were analysed had a history of cardiovascular disease – 56 per cent of whom were women.
Over an average of seven years, 5,081 people had their first heart attack (29 per cent of whom were women).
Although men were more likely to have an attack, certain risk factors seemed to make much more of an impact on women.
Smoking increased a woman's risk of heart attack by 55 per cent more than it increased the risk in a man, while high blood pressure increased their risk by an extra 83 per cent, compared to a bloke's.
Type II diabetes (generally caused by poor diet and lack of exercise) had an equally devasting effect – making women 47 per cent more likely to have a heart attack than a man, while type I had an almost three times greater impact on women.
"The presence of hypertension, smoking, and diabetes were associated with an increased risk of myocardial infarction in both women and men, but with an excess relative risk among women," the study's authors said.
What are the signs of heart attack in women?
The signs of heart attack in women are slightly different to those in men, so it's definitely worth knowing what specifically to look out for.
Women can experience an attack without the chest pressure that men often have.
Instead, they're more likely to suffer shortness of breath, pressure or pain in the lower chest or upper abdomen, lightheadedness or upper back pressure.
- pressure or pain in the centre of the chest which goes away and comes back again every few minutes
- pain or discomfort in one or both arms, back, neck, jaw or belly
- shortness of breath
- cold sweat
- acid reflux
The British Heart Foundation says: "It’s possible to have a heart attack without experiencing ‘classic’ chest pain. This is more common in people with diabetes, because a consequence of the condition can be nerve damage, which can affect how you feel pain."
"Women should, at least, receive the same access to guideline-based treatments for diabetes and hypertension, and to resources to help lose weight and stop smoking as do men."
The overall impact of smoking, high blood pressure and diabetes on heart attack risk was found to actually decrease with age, but were found to have a greater impact on women than men regardless of age.
And that's led scientists to predict that soon, women will be at the same risk of heart attack as men.
They warned: "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."
We rarely see information about women suffering heart attacks.
But any of us could have a heart attack – especially if we already have one of the co-morbidities listed above.
According to the British Heart Foundation, women are less likely to seek medical attention and treatment – despite the warning signs.
Heart attack kills twice as many women as breast cancer every single year, with 68,000 women going to hospital following an attack each year in the UK – an average of eight per hour.
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