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APS Contact: Donna Krupa

Email: dkrupa@the-aps.org

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Gender Matters in Heart Health

Selected Highlights from Conference on Physiology of Cardiovascular Disease: Gender Disparities

Bethesda, Md. (Sept. 28, 2011) – Women generally have a lower risk of developing cardiovascular disease (CVD) than men for most of their adult lives, with lower rates of high blood pressure and a tendency toward higher levels of HDL (“good”) cholesterol and lower levels of LDL (“bad”) cholesterol. Then comes the great equalizer: menopause. Post-menopausal women develop higher blood pressure at a greater rate than men and their cholesterol levels tend to worsen, even with no significant changes in diet or physical activity. As a result, women’s risk of CVD quickly catches up to men’s. Yet certain female-only conditions, such as polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) and pre-eclampsia, can raise a woman’s risk of CVD to a level on par with a man’s long before she reaches menopause.

That women’s CVD risk increases with conditions that affect their hormonal status suggests that sex hormones play a role in heart health. Experts will explore how both male and female sex hormones affect CVD risk at the Physiology of Cardiovascular Disease: Gender Disparities conference, October 12–14 at the University of Mississippi in Jackson. The conference is hosted by the American Physiological Society with additional support from the American Heart Association.

Below is an overview of the meeting, which will coincide with the grand opening of the Women’s Health Research Center at the university’s medical center.

Thursday, October 13

Symposia I: Aging and CVD

Speakers will cover diabetes and the metabolic syndrome in perimenopausal women, provide an update from the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis trial with respect to early menopause and CVD, and present research on cardiovascular remodeling.

Symposia II: Gender Disparities in Renal Disease

Experts will discuss sex differences in renal injury, podocytes in the urine as an early predictive marker of pre-eclampsia, and the role of androgens in renal disease.

Symposia III: Diabetes, Obesity and Cardiovascular Disease

Researchers will explain the pathophysiology of high blood pressure in obesity and the metabolic syndrome, present research involving the use of pancreatic peptides for the control of glucose homeostasis and appetite, and provide insights into the cardiovascular benefits of exenatide.

Symposia IV: Neuro Mechanisms and Depression in Cardiovascular Disease

Experts will cover the role of sex steroids in baroreflex control and baroreflexes in pregnancy, sex differences in depression and how depression exacerbates CVD, and why men and women respond differently after a stroke.

Friday, October 14

Symposia V: Gender Disparities in Cardiology

With an emphasis on women’s needs, speakers will discuss ischemic heart disease, angina, and how pregnancy history predicts CVD in the future with aging.

Symposia VI: Cardiovascular Disease and Inflammation

Researchers will discuss immune mechanisms in CVD, the role of sex hormones in immune system function, and sex differences in inflammatory mediators.

Symposia VII: Gender Differences in Vascular Function

Experts will explain cerebral vascular function in pregnancy and pre-eclampsia, how sex hormones differentially affect endothelial function, and how estrogen signaling affects inflammatory responses.

Symposia VIII: Cardiovascular Disease and Fertility

Speakers will discuss CVD and PCOS, angiotensin 1 receptor autoantibodies in pre-eclampsia, and how angiogenic factors contribute to the hypertension in women with pre-eclampsia.

Additional Information

Press releases about new study findings will be available on the APS press page during the conference. The meeting is chaired by Dr. Jane Reckelhoff, Professor of Physiology and Biophysics Director, Women's Health Research at the University of Mississippi. Come to Jackson and enjoy Southern Hospitality and great research!


Physiology is the study of how molecules, cells, tissues and organs function in health and disease. Established in 1887, the American Physiological Society (APS) was the first U.S. society in the biomedical sciences field. The Society represents more than 10,500 members and publishes 15 peer-reviewed journals with a worldwide readership.