The Importance of Gender to Understand Sex Differences in Cardiovascular Disease.

Affiliation

Connelly PJ(1), Azizi Z(2), Alipour P(2), Delles C(3), Pilote L(4), Raparelli V(5).
Author information:
(1)Institute of Cardiovascular and Medical Sciences, University of Glasgow, Glasgow, Scotland, United Kingdom.
(2)Centre for Outcomes Research and Evaluation, McGill University Health Centre Research Institute, Montréal, Québec, Canada.
(3)Institute of Cardiovascular and Medical Sciences, University of Glasgow, Glasgow, Scotland, United Kingdom. Electronic address: [Email]
(4)Centre for Outcomes Research and Evaluation, McGill University Health Centre Research Institute, Montréal, Québec, Canada; Divisions of Clinical Epidemiology and General Internal Medicine, McGill University Health Centre Research Institute, Montréal, Québec, Canada. Electronic address: [Email]
(5)Department of Translational Medicine, University of Ferrara, Ferrara, Italy; University of Alberta, Faculty of Nursing, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.

Abstract

Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is the leading cause of morbidity and mortality worldwide. There is robust evidence of heterogeneity in underlying mechanism, manifestation, prognosis, and response to treatment of CVD between male and female patients. Gender, which refers to the socially constructed roles, behaviours, expressions, and identities of individuals, is an important determinant of CV health, and its consideration might help in attaining a broader understanding of the observed sex differences in CVD. Established risk factors such as hypertension, dyslipidemia, diabetes mellitus, obesity, and smoking are well known to contribute to CVD. However, despite the differences in CVD risk between male and female, most studies looking into the magnitude of effect of each risk factor have traditionally focused on male subjects. While biological sex influences disease pathophysiology, the psycho-socio-cultural construct of gender can further interact with this effect. Behavioural, psychosocial, personal, cultural, and societal factors can create, repress, or strengthen underlying biological CV health differences. Although mechanisms of action are largely unclear, it is suggested that gender-related factors can further exacerbate the detrimental effect of established risk factors of CVD. In this narrative review, we explore the current literature investigating the role of gender in CV risk and its impact on established risk factors as a fundamental step toward precision medicine.