Why Your Gender May Be a Risk Factor for Heart Disease

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Women develop heart disease later than men.Although heart disease is the leading cause of death among people over 50 years of age, is there a difference in the incidence based upon gender? Well, we know which risk factors increase your risk of heart disease, such as being overweight, being older, smoking, consuming a poor diet, leading a sedentary lifestyle, and being under a lot of stress. Despite these well-recognized risk factors, some new research has indicated that your gender may also be an important factor.

Recent research published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism has found that women may develop heart disease at a later age than men. The researchers studied 468 women and 354 men who were evaluated for cardiovascular risk factors and their level of insulin resistance, a major factor in the development of heart disease. The participants were also divided based upon their age.

The study indicated that women who were obese had lower levels of insulin resistance compared to men of the same weight who had higher levels of insulin resistance. Of those subjects who were younger (under 51), the women also had lower blood pressure, triglycerides, and fasting blood sugar than their male counterparts. The researchers also found that younger women, who had a significant degree of insulin resistance, had relatively few or none of the risk factors typically associated with metabolic syndrome (known as pre-diabetes).

However, as women aged, this protection seemed to diminish to a point where older women who were insulin resistant had the same cardiovascular risk factors as men.

According to the lead author Dr. S. Kim, “younger women, when they are resistant, are able to handle the complications a lot better.” The effects of the female hormonal influence in younger women certainly can’t be discounted. However, Dr. Kim also states, “but the role of female hormones isn’t clear-cut: For instance, giving women synthetic versions of hormones such as estrogen doesn’t have the effects seen in the study.”

In my opinion, younger women who are overweight are protected from the ravages of insulin resistance even if they are obese because of their intrinsic hormonal levels. The higher amounts of circulating estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone pre-menopausal women have circulating around in their blood stream improves insulin receptor activity in the muscle, fat cells, and the liver.

Pre-menopausal women are also less likely to develop the magnitude of insulin resistance at a younger age than do men or older women because they have a tendency to store unwanted body fat in areas which are less worrisome and away from the abdominal cavity. Body fat stored around and inside the abdomen carries with it much more of a risk because it is associated with a greater degree of insulin resistance.

Despite the interesting results of this study, younger women who are overweight or obese should not be complacent because, although you may be dodging a bullet, this is temporary.

A change in lifestyle is warranted so when you are five to 10 years older, the risk factors for cardiovascular disease will not be much of a health issue and less significant.

Source(s) for Today’s Article:
Ghose, T.,“Why Heart Disease Strikes Women Later Than Men,”Yahoo! News web site; http://ca.news.yahoo.com/why-heart-disease-strikes-women-later-men-170910599.html, last accessed Sept 24, 2013.
Kim, S.,et al., “Sex Differences in Insulin Resistance and Cardiovascular Disease Risk,”The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism. September 24, 2013.