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Why Young Female Smokers Face Highest Risk of Heart Attack

A young woman smoking a cigarette by a tree, increasing her chances of heart attack

Why Young Female Smokers Face Highest Risk of Heart Attack

A recent study in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology has found that young females are at the highest risk of a heart attack of any group of smokers. This finding came from research into the risk of a type of heart attack in smokers called ST-segment myocardial infarction (STEMI). While this research did indicate the highest risk was for females under the age of 50, it also found that the risk of STEMI was higher for smokers of all ages and genders than for non-smokers.

Heart Attacks and Smoking

A heart attack happens when the body’s blood supply is cut off to the muscle that controls the heart. When this restriction happens, part of the heart muscle can die, and in some cases, it can lead to death. Approximately 23.4% of deaths in the United States are caused by heart disease or heart attacks caused by heart disease. A type of heart attack, STEMI is the most severe type of heart attack that a teen (or anyone) can have.

Smokers, including teenage smokers, are at a higher risk of STEMI and heart disease. This risk is because smoking leads to narrowing and hardening of the veins and arteries, making blood flow restricted to important parts of the body, including the heart. This restriction in blood flow makes it more likely that a complete occlusion will occur.

Teen Smoking: Young Females at Risk of Heart Attacks

The study done by the Journal of the American College of Cardiology suggested multiple reasons for why young female smokers had a higher risk of STEMI and other heart conditions as compared to other smokers:

  • Females who smoke produce less estrogen, a hormone that helps to reduce the risk of narrowing arteries
  • Women naturally have smaller arteries than men

A combination of these two factors likely causes an increased risk for female smokers.

While the risk of STEMI is 13 times higher for females below age 50 who smoke, the risk of STEMI is 8.6 times higher for males who smoke compared to those who do not. So, although females are at the highest risk, smoking increases the risk of STEMI in all age groups and genders.

While there is a high risk of STEMI among teens who smoke, there is some good news. The study in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology found that the increased risk of STEMI for smokers decreased greatly when smoking was stopped. According to Dr. Ever Grech, one of the authors of the study, the risk of STEMI for someone who has quit smoking can be reduced to almost as much as a non-smoker within as little as a month.


American College of Cardiology. “Are Young Female Smokers at Greater Risk For STEMI?” June 24, 2019. Accessed July 3, 2019.

Nichols, Hannah. “The top 10 leading causes of death in the United States.” Medical News Today, 2017. Accessed July 3, 2019.

National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine. “6. Cardiovascular Diseases.” How Tobacco Smoke Causes Disease: The Biology and Behavioral Basis for Smoking-Attributable Disease: A Report of the Surgeon General, 2010. Accessed July 3, 2019.

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