WASHINGTON—Does the incidence of cardiovascular disease differ by sex among veterans as it does with the general U.S. population?

A study in the Journal of Women’s Health sought to answer that question. VA researchers from across the nation focused on veterans who receive care at the VHA, questioning whether the stress associated with military service made women more susceptible to heart disease.1

The study team used International Classification of Disease, Ninth Revision, Clinical Modification (ICD-9-CM) codes in Fiscal Year 2014 VA administrative records to identify cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk factors and conditions among women and men veterans. With ICD-9-CM codes grouped into conditions, prevalence was examined by gender overall, by age and by race/ethnicity.

Included in the analysis were more than 5.3 million men and about 412,000 women. Compared with men, women in this cohort were younger and more ethnically diverse. Females also were less likely to have traditional CVD risk factors, although they were more likely to have depression, a nontraditional CVD risk factor, compared with men.

Results indicate that, overall, women VA patients had higher odds of chest pain/angina (adjusted odds ratio [AOR] 1.03, confidence interval [95% CI] 1.02-1.05), palpitations (AOR 2.04; 95% CI 1.98-2.10) and valvular disease (AOR 1.05; 95% CI 1.02-1.08) but lower odds of coronary artery disease (AOR 0.29; 95% CI 0.29-0.30), acute MI (AOR 0.46; 95% CI 0.43-0.49) and heart failure (AOR 0.55; 95% CI 0.53-0.56) compared with men who receive treatment in the healthcare system.

“In age-adjusted comparisons, sex differences in the prevalence of CVD risk factors and conditions among the VA veteran patient population was similar in that seen in the civilian population with a few exceptions,” the authors concluded.

Whitehead AM, Maher NH, Goldstein K, Bean-Mayberry B, Duvernoy C, Davis M, Safdar B, Saechao F, Lee J, Frayne SM, Haskell SG. Sex Differences in Veterans’ Cardiovascular Health. J Womens Health (Larchmt). 2019 Mar 6. doi: 10.1089/jwh.2018.7228. [Epub ahead of print] PubMed PMID: 30839237.