Do Smoking Women Weaken Hearts?

Female smokers tend to suffer more complications following a heart attack

(RxWiki News) Smoking doesn't discriminate -- leading to health risks for anyone who picks up the habit. For women, that risk may be exaggerated after a heart attack.

Women who smoke tend to have heart attacks at a younger age than men, and when they do have them are more likely to suffer complications months into their recovery.

"Quit smoking to improve heart health."

Dr. Elizabeth Jackson, senior study author and a cardiologist at the University of Michigan Cardiovascular Center, said that while smoking isn't good for men or women, a recent analysis showed that women who smoke do worse six months after a heart attack.

Researchers haven't yet been able to account for the biological mechanisms that would account for the difference, but developed a theory that women may be more prone to a build up of plaque in the arteries. Smoking reduces circulation and contributes to this build up.

Researchers reviewed the University of Michigan Health System's acute coronary event registry and found data about 3,588 patients admitted to the medical center with a diagnosis of acute coronary syndrome between 1999 and 2006.

Of those patients, a reported 24 percent were active smokers. Investigators found that male smokers were on average nine years younger than non-smoking men when admitted for a cardiac event such as a heart attack. Women smokers were 13 years younger than non-smoking women when they were admitted.

Gender also was found to be a significant risk factor for complications after a heart attack. Six months following a cardiac event, 13.5 percent of female smokers required emergency treatment to restore blood flow as compared to 4.4 percent of male smokers.

Researchers said the finding suggested a need for increased doctor awareness and vigilance after an acute coronary event, especially for women.

The study was recently published in the American Journal of Cardiology.

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Review Date: 
October 6, 2011