Sex, hormones and neuroeffector mechanisms
Incidence and rate of cardiovascular disease differ between men and women across the life span. Although hypertension is more prominent in men than women, there is a group of vasomotor disorders [i.e. Raynaud’s disease, postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome and vasomotor symptoms (hot flashes) of menopause and migraine] with a female predominance. Both sex and hormones interact to modulate neuroeffector mechanisms including integrated regulation of the Sry gene and direct effect of sex steroid hormones on synthesis, release and disposition of monoamine neurotransmitters, and distribution and sensitivity of their receptors in brain areas associated with autonomic control. The interaction of the sex chromosomes and steroids also modulates these effector tissues, that is, the heart, vascular smooth muscle and endothelium. Although involvement of central serotonergic centres has been studied in regard to mood disorders such as depression, their contribution to cardiovascular risk is gaining attention. Studies are needed to further evaluate how hormonal treatments and drugs used to modulate adrenergic and serotonergic activity affect progression and risk for cardiovascular disease in men and women.
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