The pathogenesis of obesity-associated cardiovascular diseases begins long prior to the presentation of a cardiovascular event. In both men and women, cardiovascular events, and their associated hospitalizations and mortality, are often clinically predisposed by the presentation of a chronic cardiovascular risk factor. Obesity increases the risk of cardiovascular diseases in both sexes, however, the clinical prevalence of obesity, as well as its contribution to crucial cardiovascular risk factors is dependent on sex. The mechanisms via which obesity leads to cardiovascular risk is also discrepant in women between their premenopausal, pregnancy and postmenopausal phases of life. Emerging data indicate that at all reproductive statuses and ages, the presentation of a cardiovascular event in obese women is strongly associated with hypertension and its subsequent chronic risk factor, heart failure with preserved ejection fraction (HFpEF). In addition, emerging evidence indicates that obesity increases the risk of both hypertension and heart failure in pregnancy. This review will summarize clinical and experimental data on the female-specific prevalence and mechanisms of hypertension and heart failure in women across reproductive stages and highlight the particular risks in pregnancy as well as emerging data in a high-risk ethnicity in women of African ancestry (AA).
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