Aim: The aim of this literature review was to review and discuss the differences between men and women with heart failure with regard to epidemiology, aetiology, diagnostics, prognosis, pharmacological and non-pharmacological treatment, and the impact of heart failure on psychosocial factors and healthcare utilisation.
Method: Two primary health care resources, MEDLINE and CINAHL, were selected to review the current literature. In MEDLINE, 234 abstracts dealing with heart failure and gender/sex were found and in CINAHL, 20 abstracts.
Conclusion: Men have a higher incidence of heart failure, but the overall prevalence rate is similar in both sexes, since women survive longer after the onset of heart failure. Women tend to be older when diagnosed with heart failure and more often have diastolic dysfunction than men. The extent of sex differences in treatment, hospital cost and quality of care can partly be explained by age differences. The life situations for men and women with heart failure are different. Physical and social restrictions affecting daily life activities are experienced as most bothersome for men, whereas restrictions affecting the possibility to support family and friends are most difficult to accept for women. Women with heart failure ascribe more positive meanings to their illness. Despite this, women seem to experience a lower overall quality of life than men. The known gender differences in patients with heart failure need to be highlighted in guidelines as well as implemented in standard care.