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Heart Attack Complications More Likely for Women Smokers

Study Shows Women Less Likely Than Men to Get Heart Treatments Like Aspirin After Leaving Hospital

Smoking and Heart Attacks continued...

However, she and other experts believe that is a ''pseudo'' benefit. The smokers are having their heart attacks at earlier ages than the nonsmokers, she says. And the nonsmokers, in general, have more coexisting problems simply because they are older. That can affect their risk of dying after the heart attack.

Exactly why women smokers fare worse with heart attack complications was not addressed in the study, Jackson tells WebMD.

There are a number of possible reasons, she says. One is that women's coronary arteries are typically smaller than men's. Smaller blood clots may block the vessels and trigger a heart attack.

A woman's body may respond differently to smoking than does a man's.

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The new findings echo much of what is known, says Marianne Legato, MD. She is founder and director of The Partnership for Gender-Specific Medicine at Columbia University and professor of clinical medicine there.

Legato points to one finding as extremely important -- that the women, whether they smoked or not, were less likely to receive medical therapy at discharge. This included aspirin, statins for lowering cholesterol, and other medicines to lower blood pressure.

"Women when discharged are not getting the careful regimens men do," she tells WebMD. "This is an important reason for complications six months down the line."

Quitting smoking is the obvious advice, Jackson says. "If you are smoking and you do unfortunately have a heart attack, you should quit immediately. Most people know that, but it's easier said than done."

"Although I can't say from this data that women who stop do better [after a heart attack], it's a logical conclusion," she says.

Legato adds this advice for women who have had a heart attack: "They have to ask their doctor if they have received all the appropriate medication to prevent a future event when they leave the hospital."

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