Sex Differences in the Association Between Obesity and Hypertension: A Systematic Review
Keywords:Obesity, sex differences, hypertension
Introduction: Obesity is associated with multiple health-related complications, which together can decrease quality of life, disability-adjusted life years and life expectancy.1 Systematic reviews and meta-analyses have demonstrated that sex can influence the association between obesity and health complications, such as rheumatoid arthritis and many types of cancer.2-4 However, no systematic review or meta-analysis has been conducted to review the effect of sex on the association between obesity and hypertension, thus far. Knowing whether or not sex influences this relationship can help tailor the prevention, prediction, and care of this condition towards each sex.
Objectives: To evaluate current studies on the association between sex, obesity, and hypertension, so as to obtain an overall estimate of the effect of sex on the prevalence of hypertension in obese individuals.
Methods: A systematic search of EMBASE, MEDLINE, and PubMed was conducted. Search terms, such as “obesity,” “sex differences,” and “hypertension,” were used to filter results. After reviewing 406 articles, eight articles were included.
Results: Four articles showed that obese women were at a greater risk of developing hypertension than obese men.5-8 Conversely, the results of two studies found that obese men are at a greater risk of developing hypertension.9,10 The remaining two studies showed that the difference between the sexes was insignificant.11,12
Discussion/Limitations: Stronger evidence shows that obese women are at a greater risk of developing hypertension than obese men. The two studies that had contradictory conclusions had small sample sizes relative to the other studies. Additionally, the two studies that concluded that both sexes are at a similar risk highlighted that most other studies have determined that obese women are at a greater risk and that their limitations may have caused this discrepancy. Limitations of this review include the limited ethnicity of participants and the use of BMI to classify obesity, which can sometimes lead to misclassification due to varying muscle to fat ratios. These factors limit the generalizability of the results.
Conclusion: Obese women are seemingly at a greater risk of developing hypertension than obese men. However, this conclusion remains statistically inconclusive. Therefore, it would be beneficial to complete a meta-analysis in order to conclusively determine which sex is statistically more at risk of developing hypertension, when obese.
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