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Rockville, Md. (October 19, 2021)—Researchers specializing in transgender health will gather virtually this week to discuss new developments in the field and stress the critical importance of studying heart health in transgender people at the American Physiological Society’s (APS) New Trends in Sex and Gender Medicine conference.

“The ‘New trends in transgender medicine’ session is important to understand that there are a lot of unknowns about health outcomes for transgender individuals, and as much as possible we need to be data-driven and incorporate this into practice in a collaborative fashion with the patient,” said session chair Jeremi Carswell, MD, of Boston Children’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School. “It is also critical to consider patients’ risk levels based on an understanding of factors both related to and independent from their transgender status.”

Sean Iwamoto, MD, of the University of Colorado School of Medicine and Rocky Mountain Regional VA Medical Center in Aurora, Colorado, will present a review of the current literature on transgender health and medicine, including preliminary data on increased cardiovascular risks for those taking feminizing gender-affirming hormones. Feminizing hormone therapy uses estrogen and antiandrogens to promote breast development and body shape changes and decrease facial and body hair growth, among other feminizing effects. However, these hormones may also increase the risk of blood clots, stroke and heart disease in transgender women. Research is currently underway to better understand how factors such as age, weight and lifestyle choices, including physical activity levels, nutrition and smoking status, may contribute to these risks.

Nina Stachenfeld, PhD, of Yale School of Medicine in New Haven, Connecticut, will discuss the risks of atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease in transgender men who receive gender-affirming hormone therapy. Studies in transgender health are finding that in some people, testosterone (androgen) therapy causes a drop in “good” cholesterol (HDL) levels and increases “bad” cholesterol (LDL) levels and fatty buildup in the arteries. In addition, blood vessel function in trans men may be compromised as well, which can lead to high blood pressure. “It is important that when the female cardiovascular system is exposed to high levels of androgens, like in trans men, that we monitor changes in the cardiovascular system and intervene to protect the vasculature so that [cardiovascular] problems do not develop later on,” Stachenfeld said. “This might be done with simple interventions like exercise or medication.”

The “New trends in transgender medicine” session will be held on Wednesday, October 20.

NOTE TO JOURNALISTS: The New Trends in Sex and Gender Medicine conference will be held October 19–22 on a virtual platform. To schedule an interview with the conference organizers or presenters, contact APS Media Relations or call 301.634.7314. Find more research highlights in the APS Newsroom.

Physiology is a broad area of scientific inquiry that focuses on how molecules, cells, tissues and organs function in health and disease. The American Physiological Society connects a global, multidisciplinary community of more than 10,000 biomedical scientists and educators as part of its mission to advance scientific discovery, understand life and improve health. The Society drives collaboration and spotlights scientific discoveries through its 16 scholarly journals and programming that support researchers and educators in their work.

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