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A Journal on Heart and Vascular Diseases

Official Journal of the Italian Society of Angiology and Vascular Pathology
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Minerva Cardioangiologica 2006 June;54(3):289-309

language: English

Cardiac health and diabetes mellitus in women: problems and prospects

Ren J.

Division of Pharmaceutical Sciences and Center for Cardiovascular Research and Alternative Medicine University of Wyoming, Laramie, WY, USA


Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of morbidity and mortality in both genders. Although premenopausal women display a lower prevalence in cardiovascular diseases compared with age-matched men, they lose this “female advantage” following menopause. There are significant gender differences in a wide spectrum of cardiovascular incidence, ranging from delayed disease onset to higher prevalence of comorbid diseases for females. Several factors have been suggested to contribute to such difference in cardiovascular incidence including sex hormones, gender-specific intrinsic organ function, difference in body size and cardiovascular risk factor profiles (e.g., use of tobacco and alcohol, hypertension, diabetes mellitus, dyslipidemia, obesity, sedentary lifestyle and atherogenic diet). A gender difference also exists for diabetes and diabetic complications. Heart diseases exhibits a 2-fold and a 5-fold increase in men and women with diabetes, respectively. Although female hearts are usually more tolerable to stress insults than their male counterparts, female sex hormone such as estrogen interacts with diabetic risk factors to precipitate cardiomyopathy. This review aims at recaping our knowledge on gender difference in diabetic heart disease with an emphasis on disease pathogenesis. Deficits and obstacles to optimal risk factor management in diabetic women are also discussed in an effort to improve the overall cardiovascular health of diabetic women.

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