Variations between women and men in risk factors, treatments, cardiovascular disease incidence, and death in 27 high-income, middle-income, and low-income countries (PURE): a prospective cohort study

Lancet. 2020 Jul 11;396(10244):97-109. doi: 10.1016/S0140-6736(20)30543-2. Epub 2020 May 20.


Background: Some studies, mainly from high-income countries (HICs), report that women receive less care (investigations and treatments) for cardiovascular disease than do men and might have a higher risk of death. However, very few studies systematically report risk factors, use of primary or secondary prevention medications, incidence of cardiovascular disease, or death in populations drawn from the community. Given that most cardiovascular disease occurs in low-income and middle-income countries (LMICs), there is a need for comprehensive information comparing treatments and outcomes between women and men in HICs, middle-income countries, and low-income countries from community-based population studies.

Methods: In the Prospective Urban Rural Epidemiological study (PURE), individuals aged 35-70 years from urban and rural communities in 27 countries were considered for inclusion. We recorded information on participants' sociodemographic characteristics, risk factors, medication use, cardiac investigations, and interventions. 168 490 participants who enrolled in the first two of the three phases of PURE were followed up prospectively for incident cardiovascular disease and death.

Findings: From Jan 6, 2005 to May 6, 2019, 202 072 individuals were recruited to the study. The mean age of women included in the study was 50·8 (SD 9·9) years compared with 51·7 (10) years for men. Participants were followed up for a median of 9·5 (IQR 8·5-10·9) years. Women had a lower cardiovascular disease risk factor burden using two different risk scores (INTERHEART and Framingham). Primary prevention strategies, such as adoption of several healthy lifestyle behaviours and use of proven medicines, were more frequent in women than men. Incidence of cardiovascular disease (4·1 [95% CI 4·0-4·2] for women vs 6·4 [6·2-6·6] for men per 1000 person-years; adjusted hazard ratio [aHR] 0·75 [95% CI 0·72-0·79]) and all-cause death (4·5 [95% CI 4·4-4·7] for women vs 7·4 [7·2-7·7] for men per 1000 person-years; aHR 0·62 [95% CI 0·60-0·65]) were also lower in women. By contrast, secondary prevention treatments, cardiac investigations, and coronary revascularisation were less frequent in women than men with coronary artery disease in all groups of countries. Despite this, women had lower risk of recurrent cardiovascular disease events (20·0 [95% CI 18·2-21·7] versus 27·7 [95% CI 25·6-29·8] per 1000 person-years in men, adjusted hazard ratio 0·73 [95% CI 0·64-0·83]) and women had lower 30-day mortality after a new cardiovascular disease event compared with men (22% in women versus 28% in men; p<0·0001). Differences between women and men in treatments and outcomes were more marked in LMICs with little differences in HICs in those with or without previous cardiovascular disease.

Interpretation: Treatments for cardiovascular disease are more common in women than men in primary prevention, but the reverse is seen in secondary prevention. However, consistently better outcomes are observed in women than in men, both in those with and without previous cardiovascular disease. Improving cardiovascular disease prevention and treatment, especially in LMICs, should be vigorously pursued in both women and men.

Funding: Full funding sources are listed at the end of the paper (see Acknowledgments).

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / drug therapy
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / epidemiology
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / mortality*
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / prevention & control*
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Cause of Death / trends
  • Coronary Disease / epidemiology
  • Developing Countries / economics*
  • Developing Countries / statistics & numerical data
  • Epidemiologic Studies
  • Female
  • Healthy Lifestyle / physiology
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Income
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Poverty
  • Prospective Studies
  • Risk Factors
  • Rural Population
  • Secondary Prevention
  • Socioeconomic Factors