Over 400 heart attacks every year in young women smokers could be prevented

October 24, 1999

Over 400 heart attacks could be prevented every year in young women smokers, if they were to kick the habit, finds research published in Heart. In more than 100 cases the heart attack is fatal, the findings show.

Drawing on data from the British MICA (myocardial infarction causality) study, the researchers analyzed all cases of heart attacks occurring in women between the ages of 16 and 44 from October 1993 to October 1995. Their health profiles were compared with those in women of the same age who had not had a heart attack.

The findings showed that the more cigarettes that were smoked on a daily basis, the greater was the risk of a heart attack. But even in light smokers -- up to five cigarettes a day -- the risk more than doubled. For smokers of two packs or more a day, the risk increased by a factor of almost 75.

Other underlying conditions, such as high blood pressure, diabetes, or high cholesterol -- known risk factors for heart disease -- further increased the likelihood of a heart attack in smokers. In smokers of between one and 19 cigarettes a day, with one other clinical condition, the risk of a heart attack was eight times that of a non-smoker with the same condition; smokers of one pack or more a day were at 25 times greater risk than non-smokers.

The researchers could not find any evidence of increased risk among smokers because they used the contraceptive pill, possibly, they suggest, because the types currently in use contain lower levels of the hormone estrogen than their predecessors.

Heart attack is rare in young women, confirm the authors, but based on available data, they conclude, "About 400 cases [of heart attack] per year could be prevented and about 112 lives saved if smoking ceased."

Heart (formerly the British Heart Journal) is a leading international clinical journal that keeps cardiologists and others in touch with advances that have the most impact on the treatment and prevention of cardiovascular disease. For further information, please contact Jill Shepard, Public Affairs Division, British Medical Association at 44-171-383-6529 or e-mail jshepherd@bmj.com.
Posted by the Center for the Advancement of Health http://www.cfah.org. For information about the Center, call Petrina Chong, pchong@cfah.org 202-387-2829.

Center for Advancing Health

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