Cardiovascular disease risk in lesbian women

Womens Health Issues. Jul-Aug 2003;13(4):167-74. doi: 10.1016/s1049-3867(03)00041-0.


Lesbians may be a higher risk subpopulation of women for cardiovascular disease due to the prevalence of risk factors and attitudes about weight. In a survey of 648 women, we compared various cardiovascular risk factors between 324 lesbians age 40 and older residing in California and their heterosexual sisters closest in age. Compared with their sisters, the lesbians had a significantly higher body mass index, waist circumference, and waist-to-hip ratio (WHR). The lesbians were also more likely to have ever smoked, but were as likely as their sisters to be current smokers. They were significantly less likely to have eaten red meat in the past year, but did not differ significantly from their sisters on the other nutritional variables. They were more likely, however, to report a history of weight cycling. With regard to exercise, the lesbians were significantly more likely to exercise at least weekly. Yet the two groups did not differ in the number of times per week exercised, the length of the exercise session, nor the exercise vigor. This is the first study to report waist circumference measurements and WHR for lesbians. Our findings suggest that lesbians, as a group, may have greater abdominal/visceral adiposity and, thus, a metabolic profile placing them at higher risk for cardiovascular disease. Future studies of cardiovascular risk in lesbians should measure low-density lipoprotein, C-reactive protein, and identifiers of the metabolic syndrome, namely blood pressure, triglyceride and high-density lipoprotein levels, and fasting glucose. Interventions designed to reduce abdominal/visceral adiposity in lesbians should also be examined in future studies.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Attitude to Health
  • Body Constitution
  • Body Mass Index
  • California / epidemiology
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Exercise
  • Female
  • Heart Diseases / epidemiology*
  • Heart Diseases / etiology
  • Homosexuality, Female*
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Prevalence
  • Risk Factors
  • Smoking
  • Women's Health