Obese women with PCOS who also smoke face a double threat of cardiovascular disease, which can make them vulnerable to a heart attack at almost the same age as men.
Heart attacks usually strike men at an earlier age than women. Men on average have their first heart attack at 72 if they don’t smoke but at 64 if they do. However, researchers found that women smokers of a healthy weight had their first heart attack at 66, though the average age was 81 if they didn’t smoke.
But obese women smokers face a double threat. Leaving aside their cigarette habit, excessive weight means they already run an increased risk of a heart attack from classic PCOS symptoms like high blood pressure and high levels of LDL “bad” cholesterol. This situation arises even though doctors have long suspected that female hormones like estrogen protect women against cardiovascular disease.
Estrogen is thought to raise the levels of HDL “good” cholesterol, as well as enabling blood vessel walls to relax more easily, thus lowering the chances of a blockage. But smoking might make women go through hormone-depleting menopause earlier, leaving them less protected against a heart attack, even before smoking is factored in as an increased risk.
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