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J Geriatr Cardiol. 2011 Mar;8(1):15-23. doi: 10.3724/SP.J.1263.2011.00015.

Gender differences in the etiology of heart failure: A systematic review.

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  • 1Department of Medicine, University of Ottawa, The Ottawa Hospital, Civic Campus, 1053 Carling Ave, Ottawa, Ontario, K1Y 4E9, Canada.



Heart failure (HF) is an increasing problem for the aging population, specifically among women. The etiology of HF influences both the selection and outcome of the treatment. There are variations between genders in morbidity and mortality in different studies, possibly reflecting etiology. The objective of this study was to examine the strength of evidence available for gender differences in the etiology of chronic heart failure.


Computer-assisted searches from 1980-2009 for gender differences in the etiology of heart failure were performed (Medline, EMBASE and PubMed). From 2347 abstracts reviewed based on inclusion criteria, 35 original articles were chosen for review. Data extraction was based on observational studies (prospective/retrospective cohort or cross sectional) with a mean follow up of 3 months. There was no interrater variability between the 2 reviewers on data-extraction.


Ventricular systolic dysfunction being more associated with male sex, but female sex was more reported to be associated with preserved left ventricular function. Ischemic etiology and associated coronary heart disease were strongly correlated with male sex. The risk for HF was dramatically more elevated for women with systolic hypertension but the association for diabetes mellitus as the etiology of HF was somewhat equal between males and females.


One of the limitations in reaching conclusions about gender differences in cardiovascular disease is that many major clinical trials do not include a gender analysis nor they are powered to do so as women are under-represented in most of the HF studies. The need remains for a well designed prospective study of sufficient numbers of male and female patients with and without heart failure and analyzing etiology and risk factors based on the sex differences.


etiology; gender differences; heart failure

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