This overview is primarily concerned with large recent prospective cohort studies of adult populations, not patients, because the latter studies are confounded by differences in medical and surgical management for men vs. women. When early papers are uniquely informative they are also included. Because the focus is on epidemiology, details of age, sex, sample size, and source as well as study methods are provided. Usually the primary outcomes were all-cause or coronary heart disease (CHD) mortality using baseline data from midlife or older adults. Fifty years ago few prospective cohort studies of all-cause or CHD mortality included women. Most epidemiologic studies that included community-dwelling adults did not include both sexes and still do not report men and women separately. Few studies consider both sex (biology) and gender (behavior and environment) differences. Lifespan studies describing survival after live birth are not considered here. The important effects of prenatal and early childhood biologic and behavioral factors on adult mortality are beyond the scope of this review. Clinical trials are not discussed. Overall, presumptive evidence for causality was equivalent for psychosocial and biological exposures, and these attributes were often associated with each other. Inconsistencies or gaps were particularly obvious for studies of sex or gender differences in age and optimal measures of body size for CHD outcomes, and in the striking interface of diabetes and people with the metabolic syndrome, most of whom have unrecognized diabetes.
Keywords: coronary heart disease; diabetes; gender differences; lifestyle; stress; testosterone.
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