Heart attack was one of the leading causes of death globally in 2016. Heart diseases leading to heart attack are generally more common in men than women overall, but often converge with increasing age. GlobalData epidemiologists forecast that incident cases of heart attack will increase steadily in the seven major markets (7MM: US, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, UK, Japan), from approximately 945,000 in 2015 to 1,150,000 in 2025 in the population aged 25 years and older, at an annual growth rate of 1.90% (Figure 1).

GlobalData epidemiologists also report that incidence of these heart diseases is more common in men than women. A study conducted at the University of Oxford by Millett and colleagues and published in the British Medical Journal in November 2018 concluded that diabetes and high blood pressure increases the risk of heart attack more in women than men. As the population ages and the prevalence of diabetes and high blood pressure increases, the incidence of heart attack in women will likely become more similar to that in men in the future.

Figure 1: 7MM, Hospitalized Diagnosed Incident Cases of Heart Attack, Ages ≥25 Years, N, 2015–2025

Source: GlobalData                                                                                            © GlobalData

To establish the sex-specific difference in risk factors for heart diseases, Millett and colleagues looked at records of almost 472,000 people in the UK aged 40 to 69 years. Overall, men had a far higher risk of heart attack than women over seven years of follow-up. However, the researchers identified that the effects of diabetes and high blood pressure raised women’s relative risk of a heart attack more than in men. High blood pressure and type 2 diabetes each were 40% more strongly associated with the risk of heart disease in women than men.

While the overall risk of a heart attack remains far higher in men, the findings from this research suggest that women with certain risk factors are much more vulnerable to heart attack than men. Further research is needed to explore the sex-specific difference in risk factors and heart attack.