Many transgender people who receive hormone therapy have unaddressed heart disease risks

November 09, 2020

Embargoed until 4 a.m. CT/5 a.m. ET Monday, Nov. 9, 2020

DALLAS, Nov. 9, 2020 -- Many transgender people who receive gender-affirming hormone therapy already have unaddressed heart disease risk factors such as high blood pressure and high cholesterol, even during young adulthood, according to preliminary research to be presented at the American Heart Association's Scientific Sessions 2020. The meeting will be held virtually, Friday, November 13 - Tuesday, November 17, 2020, and is a premier global exchange of the latest scientific advancements, research, evidence-based clinical practice updates in cardiovascular science for health care worldwide.

"Previous research has shown that transgender individuals are less likely to have access to health care or to utilize health care for a variety of reasons, including stigma and fear of mistreatment," said Kara J. Denby, M.D., lead study author and a clinical fellow in cardiovascular medicine at the Cleveland Clinic Foundation in Cleveland, Ohio. "Since transgender individuals have frequent physician visits while taking hormone therapy, this seems an opportune time to screen for cardiovascular risk factors and treat previously undiagnosed cardiovascular disease that can lead to poor health outcomes in the future."

The researchers examined risk factors and medical history for more than 400 adults (56% assigned male sex at birth, mostly in their 20s and 30s) when they first sought care at the multidisciplinary transgender program at the Cleveland Clinic Foundation.

For participants without current heart disease, two scoring systems were used to estimate their risk of developing heart disease. The researchers found: 6.8% had undiagnosed high blood pressure; and 11.3% had undiagnosed high cholesterol.

Of those already diagnosed with high blood pressure, more than one-third had not been receiving recommended treatment. And, of those already diagnosed with high cholesterol, more than three-quarters had not been receiving recommended treatment.

"When we calculated the risk for developing a heart attack or stroke over 10 years, the risk for transgender men and women was higher than that reported for the average American of their age and gender. We also found that, even in the highest risk individuals, many were not receiving recommended treatment," said Denby.

In addition, the researchers found that more than half of the study participants (56.5%) had been previously diagnosed with a mental health disorder such as anxiety or depression, which is also associated with increased risk of heart disease.

"Transgender individuals face numerous barriers and biases to access the health care they need. We owe it to them to improve access and care so they can improve their CVD health and overall well-being. Policies and health care structures that are safe and supportive are critical for the transgender population to achieve health equity," Denby said.

The study, however, is limited by being a retrospective review of medical records. The results cannot be used to prove a cause-and-effect relationship between being transgender and the presence of heart disease risk factors.
-end-
Co-authors are Meghana Patil, M.D.; Karlo Toljan, M.D.; Leslie Cho, M.D.; and Cecile A. Ferrando, M.D., M.P.H. Author disclosures are in the abstract. The researchers reported no external funding sources.

Note: Session: GR.APS.05; Scientific presentation P2274 is 9:00 a.m. CT, Friday, Nov. 13, 2020.

Additional Resources:

Multimedia, including a video perspective interview with Billy A. Caceres, Ph.D., R.N., FAHA, Chair of the writing group for the American Heart Association Scientific Statement:
LGBTQ heart health, "Assessing and Addressing Cardiovascular Health in Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer (or Questioning) Adults and assistant professor, Columbia University School of Nursing, New York, New York, may be downloaded from the right column of the release link
https://newsroom.heart.org/news/many-transgender-people-who-receive-hormone-therapy-have-unaddressed-heart-disease-risks?preview=ede5e4a2f9622fa41842831e5fe4eeac

American Heart Association Scientific Statement:
Discrimination contributes to poorer heart health for LGBTQ adults
Hormone therapy may increase cardiovascular risk during gender transition

For more news at AHA Scientific Sessions 2020, follow us on @HeartNews #AHA20

Statements and conclusions of studies that are presented at the American Heart Association's scientific meetings are solely those of the study authors and do not necessarily reflect the Association's policy or position. The Association makes no representation or guarantee as to their accuracy or reliability. The Association receives funding primarily from individuals; foundations and corporations (including pharmaceutical, device manufacturers and other companies) also make donations and fund specific Association programs and events. The Association has strict policies to prevent these relationships from influencing the science content. Revenues from pharmaceutical and biotech companies, device manufacturers and health insurance providers are available here, and the Association's overall financial information is available here.

About the American Heart Association

The American Heart Association is a relentless force for a world of longer, healthier lives. We are dedicated to ensuring equitable health in all communities. Through collaboration with numerous organizations, and powered by millions of volunteers, we fund innovative research, advocate for the public's health and share lifesaving resources. The Dallas-based organization has been a leading source of health information for nearly a century. Connect with us on heart.org, Facebook, Twitter or by calling 1-800-AHA-USA1.

American Heart Association

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