Hypertension is a risk factor for cardiovascular disease, the leading cause of death worldwide. Although multiple factors contribute to the pathogenesis of hypertension, studies by Dr David Barker reporting an inverse relationship between birth weight and blood pressure led to the hypothesis that slow growth during fetal life increased blood pressure and the risk for cardiovascular disease in later life. It is now recognized that growth during infancy and childhood, in addition to exposure to adverse influences during fetal life, contributes to the developmental programming of increased cardiovascular risk. Numerous epidemiological studies support the link between influences during early life and later cardiovascular health; experimental models provide proof of principle and indicate that numerous mechanisms contribute to the developmental origins of chronic disease. Sex has an impact on the severity of cardiovascular risk in experimental models of developmental insult. Yet, few studies examine the influence of sex on blood pressure and cardiovascular health in low-birth weight men and women. Fewer still assess the impact of ageing on sex differences in programmed cardiovascular risk. Thus, the aim of the present review is to highlight current data about sex differences in the developmental programming of blood pressure and cardiovascular disease.

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