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Sex differences in cardiovascular ageing
  1. Allison A Merz1,
  2. Susan Cheng1,2
  1. 1Division of Cardiovascular Medicine, Brigham and Women's Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts, USA
  2. 2Framingham Heart Study, Framingham, Massachusetts, USA
  1. Correspondence to Dr Susan Cheng, Division of Cardiovascular Medicine, Brigham and Women's Hospital, 75 Francis Street, Boston, MA 02115, USA; scheng{at}rics.bwh.harvard.edu

Abstract

Despite recent progress in identifying and narrowing the gaps in cardiovascular outcomes between men and women, general understanding of how and why cardiovascular disease presentations differ between the sexes remains limited. Sex-specific patterns of cardiac and vascular ageing play an important role and, in fact, begin very early in life. Differences between the sexes in patterns of age-related cardiac remodelling are associated with the relatively greater prevalence in women than in men of heart failure with preserved ejection fraction. Similarly, sex variation in how vascular structure and function change with ageing contributes to differences between men and women in how coronary artery disease manifests typically or atypically over the adult life course. Both hormonal and non-hormonal factors underlie sex differences in cardiovascular ageing and the development of age-related disease. The midlife withdrawal of endogenous oestrogen appears to augment the age-related increase in cardiovascular risk seen in postmenopausal compared with premenopausal women. However, when compared with intrinsic biological differences between men and women that are present throughout life, this menopausal transition may not be as substantial an actor in determining cardiovascular outcomes.

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