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Unique cardiovascular risk factors in women
  1. Laura Young,
  2. Leslie Cho
  1. Department of Cardiovascular Medicine, Cleveland Clinic Foundation, Cleveland, Ohio, USA
  1. Correspondence to Dr Leslie Cho, Professor of Medicine, Section Head of Preventive Cardiology and REhabiliation, Director of Women’s Cardiovascular Center Cleveland Clinic, Cleveland, OH 44195, USA; chol{at}


Despite an overall reduction in cardiovascular disease (CVD) mortality in the USA, the rate of coronary heart disease and CVD mortality is on the rise in younger women aged 35 to 54 years. This has been attributed to an increasing prevalence of CVD risk factors, which can portend disparate outcomes in women versus men. Women with diabetes and those who smoke have an excess relative risk of CVD when compared with their male counterparts. In addition to these discrepancies in traditional risk factors, a number of clinical conditions unique to women have been shown to increase CVD risks such as pre-eclampsia, gestational diabetes, polycystic ovary syndrome, early menopause and autoimmune diseases. The majority of these sex-specific risk factors can be identified at an early age, allowing for aggressive risk factor modification through lifestyle changes and, in certain patients, medications. The recently published 2018 American College of Cardiology and American Heart Association (ACC/AHA) hypercholesterolaemia and 2019 ACC/AHA primary prevention guidelines reflect this, citing pre-eclampsia, early menopause and autoimmune diseases as ‘risk enhancers’ that if present may favour initiation of statin therapy in borderline or intermediate risk patients. This comprehensive review addresses both traditional and unique risk factors of CVD in women, as well as sex-specific risk stratification and management options.

  • cardiac risk factors and prevention
  • pregnancy
  • heart disease

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  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Provenance and peer review Commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

  • Patient consent for publication Not required.