Prior to menopause, women generally have a very low risk of heart disease. This protective effect has been felt to be due to the varied beneficial effects of the sex hormone, estrogen. After menopause, women quickly catch up with men and have the same risk of heart disease.
In the last two decades, many younger women have started to smoke. While this may look fashionable, smoking is simply not a great idea. Now there is a large study which shows that smoking significantly increases the risk of heart attack in women, compared to men. The latest study of 2.4 million people published in the medical journal, Lancet, indicates that there is a 25 percent difference in the risk for heart disease between men and women. (1)
Why women are prone to early heart disease from smoking is not well understood but it is alarming since women do not usually smoke as much as men.
The authors of the study suspect that perhaps biological differences between the sexes may make women more vulnerable to heart disease or it could that that women smoke cigarette in a different manner. It could also be that women may be extracting a greater quantity of carcinogen(s) and other toxic agents from the same number of cigarettes than men.
Based on these results, there should be a greater impetus for women to discontinue smoking. Unfortunately, in many developing countries, women are now viewed as a major growth market by the tobacco companies. Women are often attracted to cigarettes by slick advertising with exotic packaging, and glamorous colors and sex appeal.
Women should understand that smoking may look cool, but besides heart disease, smoking can cause lung cancer, peripheral vascular disease and causes exceptionally foul breath. This alone should be a reason to quit smoking. (2)
1. Huxley RR, Woodward M. Cigarette smoking as a risk factor for coronary heart disease in women compared with men: a systematic review and meta-analysis of prospective cohort studies. Lancet. 2011 Aug 10. [Epub ahead of print] Abstract:
2. Hbejan K. Smoking effect on ischemic heart disease in young patients. Heart Views. 2011 Jan;12(1):1-6. Abstact:
Reviewed August 18, 2011
by Michele Blacksberg R.N.
Edited by Jody Smith