Smoking increases both men’s and women’s risk of a major heart attack at all ages, but women smokers have a significantly higher increased risk compared to men, especially those aged under 50, according to new research. The findings, published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, showed that despite the increased risk, smokers can reduce their risk to that of someone who has never smoked in as little as a month after quitting.

Smoking is a risk factor for heart disease and researchers have previously identified smoking as the cause of STElevation Myocardial Infarction, one of the most acute forms of life-threatening heart diseases, in nearly 50 per cent of all cases. However, none have quantified and compared the incidence of Stemi associated with smoking between genders and within different age groups.

In the research, the authors sought to assess smoking as an independent risk factor for Stemi and determine the differences in risk between age groups and genders. They found that smoking increases Stemi risk in all patients, regardless of age or gender, but the risk is higher in females compared to males at all ages. The largest relative risk difference between men and women smokers was in the 50-64 years old group, but the highest risk increase in both genders was in the 18-49 years group — the youngest group. Female smokers in this age group had a greater than 13 times higher risk of Stemi compared to their non-smoking female contemporaries. Young male smokers had an 8.6 times increased risk.

“Our study found that smoking cessation, regardless of age or gender, reduces Stemi risk to that of a never smoker, possibly within a month. Patients who smoke merit encouragement to give up their habit, and this study adds quantitative evidence to the massive benefits of doing so,” said Dr Ever Grech, from the University of Sheffield’s Department of Infection, Immunity and Cardiovascular Disease and consultant interventional cardiologist at Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust.