Heart-brain interactions in cardiac and brain diseases: why sex matters

Eur Heart J. 2022 Oct 14;43(39):3971-3980. doi: 10.1093/eurheartj/ehac061.


Cardiovascular disease and brain disorders, such as depression and cognitive dysfunction, are highly prevalent conditions and are among the leading causes limiting patient's quality of life. A growing body of evidence has shown an intimate crosstalk between the heart and the brain, resulting from a complex network of several physiological and neurohumoral circuits. From a pathophysiological perspective, both organs share common risk factors, such as hypertension, diabetes, smoking or dyslipidaemia, and are similarly affected by systemic inflammation, atherosclerosis, and dysfunction of the neuroendocrine system. In addition, there is an increasing awareness that physiological interactions between the two organs play important roles in potentiating disease and that sex- and gender-related differences modify those interactions between the heart and the brain over the entire lifespan. The present review summarizes contemporary evidence of the effect of sex on heart-brain interactions and how these influence pathogenesis, clinical manifestation, and treatment responses of specific heart and brain diseases.

Keywords: Brain; Dementia; Depression; Gender; Heart; Heart failure; Ischaemic heart disease; Sex; Stroke; Takotsubo syndrome.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Brain
  • Brain Diseases* / etiology
  • Cardiovascular Diseases* / etiology
  • Humans
  • Quality of Life
  • Risk Factors