Sex differences in obesity-induced hypertension and vascular dysfunction: a protective role for estrogen in adipose tissue inflammation?

Am J Physiol Regul Integr Comp Physiol. 2016 Oct 1;311(4):R714-R720. doi: 10.1152/ajpregu.00202.2016. Epub 2016 Aug 10.


Obesity is a potent predictor of cardiovascular disease and associated risk factors, including hypertension. Systemic inflammation has been suggested by a number of studies to be an important link between excess adiposity and hypertension, yet the majority of the studies have been conducted exclusively in males. This is problematic since women represent ∼53% of hypertensive cases and are more likely than men to be obese. There is a growing body of literature supporting a central role for immune cell activation in numerous experimental models of hypertension, and both the sex of the subject and the sex of the T cell have been shown to impact blood pressure (BP) responses to hypertensive stimuli. Moreover, sex steroid hormones play an important role in energy homeostasis, as well as in the regulation of immune responses; estrogen, in particular, has a well-known impact on both cardiovascular and metabolic disorders. Therefore, the purpose of this review is to examine whether sex or sex hormones regulate the role of the immune system in the development of hypertension and related vascular dysfunction in response to metabolic changes and stimuli, including a high-fat diet.

Keywords: adipose tissue; fat; females; hypertension; obesity; vascular dysfunction.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adipose Tissue / immunology*
  • Animals
  • Estrogens / immunology*
  • Humans
  • Hypertension / etiology
  • Hypertension / immunology*
  • Obesity / complications
  • Obesity / immunology*
  • Panniculitis / etiology
  • Panniculitis / immunology*
  • Sex Factors
  • Vascular Diseases / etiology
  • Vascular Diseases / immunology*


  • Estrogens