Gender-specific characteristics of atherosclerosis in menopausal women: risk factors, clinical course and strategies for prevention

Climacteric. 2007 Oct:10 Suppl 2:16-20. doi: 10.1080/13697130701602712.


Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of mortality and morbidity in women after the age of 50 years in most developed countries. Epidemiology, symptoms and progression of cardiovascular disease are different in women than in men. Indeed, women develop cardiovascular disease when they are about 10 years older than men and typically after the menopause. Risk factors have a different impact in determining cardiovascular risk in the two sexes. In men, cholesterol is more important than in women, in whom arterial hypertension, diabetes and their combination has a greater importance in determining cardiovascular risk. Menopause is an important cardiovascular risk factor both for the negative effect of ovarian hormone deprivation on cardiovascular function and for the consequent worsening of cardiovascular risk factors. Marked gender differences also exist in the clinical manifestations of atherosclerosis and in the pattern of symptoms in the two sexes. Angina, the most common manifestation of coronary heart disease, is frequently uncomplicated in women, whereas in men it tends to evolve to an acute coronary syndrome. The clinical presentation of acute ischemic syndromes is also different in men and women and, because of the frequent atypical symptoms, women tend to underestimate the importance of them. Because of the different impact of cardiovascular risk factors in men and women, the strategies for prevention should be different in the two sexes. In women, the control of blood pressure and glucose metabolism should be a priority. Furthermore, hormone replacement therapy may still have a role in the prevention of cardiovascular diseases if given to the right woman and at the right time.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Atherosclerosis / epidemiology*
  • Atherosclerosis / prevention & control*
  • Estrogen Replacement Therapy
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hypertension / epidemiology
  • Hypertension / prevention & control
  • Male
  • Menopause*
  • Middle Aged
  • Primary Prevention / methods*
  • Risk Factors
  • Risk Reduction Behavior
  • Sex Distribution
  • United States / epidemiology
  • Women's Health*