Heart Attacks Occur More Than A Decade Earlier In Smokers

Two cigarettesResearch, published online last month in The American Journal of Cardiology, has found that heart attacks occur much earlier in smokers compared to non-smokers. The study also found that female smokers were at a greater risk of smoking related heart problems than men.

The study, which involved more than 3,500 men and women who had been hospitalized for a heart attack between 1999 and 2006, found that male smokers were 9 years younger at admission than male non-smokers while female smokers were 13 years younger than their non-smoking counterparts.

Six months after their heart attack, 3.2% of male smokers had died compared to 5.6% of female smokers. Women smokers were also more likely to suffer another cardiovascular event than male smokers (54.5% vs 33.1%).

Interestingly, smokers were around a third less likely to die in the first 6 months following a heart attack than non-smokers. This was likely due to the younger age, and the lower number of co-morbid conditions such as high blood pressure and diabetes in the smoking group.

According to senior study author Dr Elizabeth Jackson who is Assistant Professor of the Department of Internal Medicine at the University of Michigan Health System: “Smoking is not good for men or women, but our analysis shows that women who smoke do worse six months after a heart attack than men”.

Heart disease is the biggest killer of middle aged smokers with almost half of all heart attacks in people aged under 50 attributable to cigarette smoking. Lung and other smoking related cancers become the most significant cause of death in older smokers.

According to a 1994 study published in the European Journal of Epidemiology, compared to non-smokers, heavy smokers (>25 cigarettes per day) are 4.9 times more likely to suffer a heart attack at a given age, moderate smokers (15-24 per day) 3.1 times more likely, light smokers (<15 per day) twice as likely, and former smokers 1.3 times more likely. Smoking rates in the USA have been declining steadily since the early 1960s although the speed of the decline has slowed somewhat in recent years. As of 2008, 22% of men and 17% of women are considered current smokers.