The burden of cardiovascular disease (CVD) in women is increasing, and CVD presently kills more North American women than men, highlighting the need for sex-specific research aimed at disentangling the complex interactions between sex, aging, and cardiovascular health. In the past decade, arterial stiffness has emerged as an independent predictor of adverse cardiovascular events and mortality, and its noninvasive, safe evaluation makes it an attractive tool for a snapshot assessment of cardiovascular health. An increasing number of reports have documented greater aortic stiffness in older women than men, which appears to have close relationships with blood pressure control, diastolic dysfunction, impaired ventricular coupling, and left ventricular remodelling in women. Thus, arterial stiffness is thought to play a role in the female predominance of several diseases such as isolated systolic hypertension, refractory hypertension, heart failure with preserved ejection fraction, and paradoxical low-flow, low-gradient, normal ejection fraction severe aortic stenosis. Furthermore, greater arterial stiffness is a common characteristic of women who develop hypertensive complications of pregnancy. Thus, better understanding sex differences in arterial stiffness and aging might provide valuable insights into CVD in women, and help identify novel risk stratification tools and therapeutic targets. To this end, the present review aims at describing sex differences in arterial stiffness, exploring the potential role of sex hormones and menopause on arterial aging, and highlighting the role of arterial stiffness in specific CVDs that preferentially affect women.
Copyright © 2014 Canadian Cardiovascular Society. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.