Background: Coronary heart disease (CHD) is the leading cause of morbidity and mortality in women in the United States. Although CHD is less common in premenopausal women than in men, this difference begins to disappear after the onset of menopause, presumably related to reduced levels of female sex hormones.
Results: An association between both a postmenopausal increase in blood pressure and CHD that coincide with loss of ovarian function suggests that estrogen and/or progesterone may be protective against hypertension and CHD. Diabetes removes the normal sex difference in the prevalence of CHD. Increased mortality in women with CHD and diabetes compared with women without diabetes has been observed in epidemiological studies.
Conclusions: Diabetes appears to obviate the protective effects of female sex hormones. Possible reasons for this catastrophic effect of diabetes in women are discussed.