The American Physiological Society Press Release

press release logo

APS Contact: Donna Krupa


Phone: 301.634.7209

Twitter: @Phyziochick

Conference Sponsored by the APS Focuses on Key Gender Differences in Health

Focus of October 13-14 event is cardiac disease, more deadly to women than breast cancer

Bethesda, Md. (Oct. 12, 2011) For years, those involved in cardiac care viewed the diagnosis and treatment procedures for cardiovascular disease as applicable to both men and women, despite the fact that heart disease kills 200,000 women each year, five times the rate of breast cancer. Today, thanks in part to physiology -- the study of how the body works -- physicians now know that instead of developing blockages in the arteries supplying blood to the heart, a common occurrence with men, women accumulate plaque more evenly inside the major arteries and in smaller blood vessels. This condition, which appears to be particularly common in younger women, can be as dangerous as the better-known form of the disease.

This and other new cardiovascular research findings are just one of the outcomes resulting from the revolution in gender studies in physiology. Cardiovascular disease and other gender-specific conditions – such as menopause, pregnancy, depression, and obesity – will be explored in depth at a two day conference being sponsored by the American Physiology Society (APS), the nation’s leading organization for the advancement of this vital science, with support from the American Heart Association and the Society for Women’s Health Research. The conference, “Physiology of Cardiovascular Disease: Gender Disparities,” is being held at the University of Mississippi Medical Center (UMMC), 2500 North State Street in Jackson, MS, October 12-14. The conference coincides with the grand opening of the Women's Health Research Center which is located on the campus of UMMC. Additionally, highlights of selected presentations from the meeting will be posted on Facebook and Twitter.

Organizing this conference is Jane F Reckelhoff, Ph.D., Billy S. Guyton Distinguished Professor of Physiology and Biophysics at UMMC and director of the Women's Health Research Center. This pioneer in gender studies and APS member will preside over an agenda with presentations that will cover gender differences in heart disease, vascular function, kidney disease and metabolism and will provide insight on how perimenopause and menopause affect women's heart health. 

Speakers at this event include:

Doris Taylor, Ph.D., director of the University of Minnesota’s Center for Cardiac Repair, who will discuss how to build a heart from stem cells;

Janet Rich-Edwards, Associate Professor in the Department of Epidemiology at the Harvard School of Public Health will provide insight into the impact of pregnancy and pregnancy outcomes on cardiovascular disease.

John Hall, Ph.D., Associate Vice Chancellor for Research at UMMC, will speak on the association of obesity and blood pressure;

Pamela Ouyang, M.D. of Johns Hopkins University will report on her findings on the relationship of early menopause and heart disease;

Meir Steiner, M.D., Ph.D., Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Neurosciences, Obstetrics and Gynecology at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, will discuss depression and the role it plays in the risk for cardiovascular disease in women; and

David G. Harrison, M.D., Vanderbilt University School of Medicine in Nashville, will offer insights into the association between the body’s immune system and cardiovascular disease.

The presentations help bring to light how much has changed about how we understand the role sex and gender plays in health in general, and in cardiovascular health in particular. Discoveries in the last 10-15 years include:

  • A daily aspirin regimen for men helps protect against heart attacks but offers no protection for women. On the other hand that same aspirin will protect women against strokes but has no such capability for men.

  • Women generally have lower rates of hypertension or high blood pressure before menopause. After menopause, hypertension rates for women spike dramatically.

  • Hypertension in women is less well controlled. This occurs despite proven evidence that women are more compliant in taking their prescribed medication.

A quaint 19th century rhyme describes the differences between males and females as “Frogs and snails and puppy-dogs' tails” andSugar and spice and everything nice.” The rhyme may sound silly, but it illustrates a vital point: namely, that there are gender-related differences which have been confirmed by physiological research, and that there is much more for research to discover. The “Physiology of Cardiovascular Disease: Gender Disparities” conference is a significant next step in this regard.

NOTE TO EDITORS: The Physiology of Cardiovascular Disease: Gender Disparities conference will be held October 12–14, 2011 at the University of Mississippi in Jackson. The press is invited to attend. For additional information, and to receive abstracts from the meeting, please contact Donna Krupa at 301.634.7209 or

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 US society in the biomedical sciences field. The Society represents more than 11,000 members and publishes 14 peer-reviewed journals with a worldwide readership.


Related Items

In Heart Disease, Men and Women are Different

Released August 15, 2011 - When it comes to heart disease, men and women are different. Our October 2011 conference focuses on the role of gender in cardiovascular disease, a disease that kills more women than breast cancer.

Gender Matters in Heart Health

Released September 28, 2011 - Highlights of the upcoming meeting, “Physiology of Cardiovascular Disease: Gender Disparities”

Mental Stress May Be Harder on Women’s Hearts

Released April 24, 2012 - Is mental stress harder on women’s hearts? New findings could help explain why women are more likely than men to have coronary symptoms after emotional upsets.

Cardio Exercise Benefits In Male Vs. Female Hearts

Released August 8, 2007 - While cardiovascular disease occurs in both men and women, it does not affect them in the same way. Risk factors and protective factors for heart diseases are likewise unequal. The molecular mechanisms responsible for these differences are so far unknown, but some believe it is due to chromosomal linked genes or sexual hormones such as estrogen and testosterone. While the mechanisms behind the differences are unknown, the physiological differences are clear. A new study examining chronic exercise in male and female mice finds that moderate long-term exercise provokes a sex-dependent cardiac adaptation that is different for females versus males. The findings may eventually help improve treatment strategies for women and men with heart disease.

Gender Differences In Renal And Other Genes Contribute To BP

Released August 8, 2007 - In a new study, researchers examined the differential contribution of genetic factors involved in regulating blood pressure based on samples drawn from a large community. They found significant differences in genetic contributors to blood pressure in males versus females.