Men and women have different risk factors for conditions including heart disease and strokes, a study has found.
British research into nearly half a million people has highlighted the risks of lifestyle and health choices.
Cardiovascular disease (CVD) includes conditions such as strokes, angina, heart attacks and heart failure, and the NHS says it is the “single biggest condition where lives can be saved by the NHS over the next 10 years”.
CVD affects over seven million people in the UK annually, causes one in four premature deaths, and is a significant cause of disability and death.
Key risk factors for heart failure, a form of cardiovascular disease that is increasing in prevalence, differed in men and women in the 468,941 participants across the nine-year study conducted by the University of Glasgow.
Many of the risk factors were identified as “modifiable” – features which people could change in their lifestyle.
Some risks uncovered were commonly known about. For example, risks for women drinking more than 14 units of alcohol a week, those who smoke, and obesity and lack of physical activity.
Other risks included diabetes, less than seven hours of sleep a night, more than three hours of TV per day, hypertension and hypercholesterolaemia (inappropriate cholesterol levels).
“Some combinations of the above factors dramatically increased the risk of heart failure,” said lead author Dr Carlo Celis-Morales.
CVD generally affects more men, and they are diagnosed at younger ages than women.
The new study showed women with some risk factors could be more strongly linked to heart failure.
“Women with type 2 diabetes, hypercholesterolaemia, high TV viewing, low levels of physical activity getting less than seven hours/day sleep, were particularly strong risk factors in women,” explained Dr Celis-Morales.
“The next stages include validating the incidence of disease and translating the work into the future medical guidelines,” added Naveed Sattar, professor of metabolic medicine.
“In the future the information in this study could help towards early identification of individuals at higher risk of heart failure since we are discovering new ways to prevent its development.
“The NHS is now better geared up to helping people improve their lifestyles but we need governments to implement policies, for example in the food industry, that makes better lifestyle easier to follow.”
Early identification and management of risk factors such as obesity, smoking, inactivity, sleep loss and new drug therapies could help lessen the disease.