Young women suffering from diabetes have a six-fold risk of heart attack, new research has warned, adding that young women who had suffered a heart attack were also more likely to be smokers.

The study in 7,386 women assessed the effect of risk factors on heart attack (myocardial infarction or MI) incidence in young women and assessed differences related to age.  The average age among young MI patients in the study was 42 years (range 21-45 years).

Multivariate analysis showed that four out of five classic risk factors were independent predictors of MI in young women.

“The strongest was diabetes which increased MI risk by six-fold. Arterial hypertension increased risk by four times while hypercholesterolemia tripled risk and current smoking increased risk by 1.6 times,” said researchers from Institute of Cardiology in Warsaw, Poland.

However, there was no statistical significance for obesity expressed by body mass index (BMI). “The lack of a correlation with obesity could be because of the overwhelming influence of diabetes in this population. We also found that the risk of MI in young women increased with the number of coexisting factors,” said professor Hanna Szwed, head of the coronary artery disease at the Institute of Cardiology.

Cardiovascular diseases (CVDs) affect mainly the elderly, but for many years, an increase in incidence has been observed in young people as well, regardless of gender.

The World Health Organisation estimates that CVDs cause more than 52 percent of all deaths in women and the number continues to rise.

“Up to one percent of all heart attacks are in young women,” Szwed added.

“We found that the risk factor profile in young women with MI was similar to the older population apart from the greater occurrence of tobacco smoking in young women,” Szwed noted.

The finding correlates with other research which shows that smoking is a growing problem in young women. This is clearly an area where prevention efforts are needed, the authors concluded.

The findings were presented at the ESC Congress - the annual congress of the European Society of Cardiology (ESC) - in London on August 31.

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