Canadian Journal of Cardiology

Sex and gender determinants of vascular disease in the global context


      Globally, vascular diseases are a leading cause of morbidity and mortality. Many of the most significant risk factors for vascular disease have a gendered dimension, and sex differences in vascular diseases incidence are apparent, worldwide. In this narrative review, we provide a contemporary picture of sex and gender-related determinants of vascular disease. We illustrate key factors underlying sex-specific risk stratification, consider similarities and sex differences in vascular disease risk and outcomes comparing data from the global North (i.e., developed high income countries in the Northern hemisphere and Australia) and the global South (i.e., regions outside Europe and North America), and explore the relationship between country-level gendered inequities in vascular disease risk and the United Nation’s gender inequality index. Review findings suggest that the rising incidence of vascular disease in women is partly explained by an increase in the prevalence of traditional risk factors linked to gender-related determinants such as shifting roles and relations related to the double burden of employment and caregiving responsibilities, lower educational attainment, lower socioeconomic status, and higher psychosocial stress. Social isolation partly explained the higher incidence of vascular disease in men. These patterns were found to be apparent across the global North and South. Study findings emphasize the necessity of taking into account sex differences and gender-related factors in the determination of the vascular disease risk profiles and management strategies. As we move towards the era of precision medicine, future research is needed that identifies, validates and measures gender-related determinants and risk factors in the global South.
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