Female Smokers Have Higher Heart Disease Risk Than Male Smokers

08/11/2011 01:00 pm ET | Updated Oct 11, 2011

Bad news for ladies. A recent review of studies, published in The Lancet, reveals that the risk of heart disease may be considerably higher in female smokers than in male smokers.

It's no small shakes: The review of 86 studies from around the world, of more than 2 million people, shows the risk at 25 percent higher for the females.

The finding is considered particularly worrisome because women generally smoke fewer cigarettes than men do, BBC News reported.

The difference in heart disease risk could possibly mean women are more vulnerable to coronary heart disease, or it could mean that women smoke differently than men -- extracting more carcinogens and toxins from the cigarettes, according to BBC News.

"It hasn't been widely recognized that there had been this sex difference," study researcher Rachel Huxley, of the University of Minnesota, told Reuters.

The researchers also found that the difference in heart disease risk between males and females grew by 2 percent for each year they smoke, Reuters reported.

Researchers had long thought that smoking ups heart disease risk for both men and women two-fold, but the new finding suggests that it's more like a 1.8-fold increase in risk for men, and a 2.3-fold increase in risk for women, Fox News reported.

Coronary heart disease is the leading cause of death in the U.S. for both men and women, and is caused by plaque buildup in the arteries leading to the heart, according to the National Institutes of Health. Factors that increase the risk of coronary heart disease include tobacco smoking, diabetes, high blood pressure, drug abuse, obesity and lack of exercise.

A recent study showed that even just a little bit of exercise -- yes, even less than the recommended 150 minutes of moderate exercise a week -- can lower your risk of coronary heart disease.

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