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Heart Health May Suffer in Lesbian, Bisexual Women

— June 20, 2023

Lesbians and bisexual women have poorer heart health while gay and bisexual men’s heart function is better.

On the surface, it wouldn’t seem like sexual orientation would have anything to do with heart health. After all, there isn’t an obvious link that would make one think a person’s heart health would be in any way related to whether they are gay, lesbian, straight, bisexual, etc. 

However, recent research has shown that there may in fact be a connection between the sexual orientation of females and their overall heart health. This is a very complicated topic and one that can be hard to untangle, but this research has at least shined a bit of light on what may be going on with these concerning findings. 

To analyze the potential correlation between sexual orientation and heart health, researchers used information from more than 160,000 people in France. The tool used to evaluate heart health in the data set was the Life’s Essential 8 framework that has been developed by the American Heart Association (AHA). 

Heart Health May Suffer in Lesbian, Bisexual Women
Photo by Karolina Grabowska from Pexels

After adjusting for other underlying factors to level the playing field, it was found that women who identify as bisexual or lesbian were likely to have lower heart health scores than women who identify as heterosexual. While the impact seemed to be more significant for lesbian women than bisexual women, each group was negatively impacted in a statistically significant manner. 

Perhaps most surprisingly, the study actually found the opposite to be true when it comes to men who identify as gay or bisexual. In that case, each of those two groups was likely to have better heart health than the heterosexual group. Bisexual men, on average, had modestly better heart health scores than straight men, while gay men had significantly better results in this area. 

It’s useful to show connections between factors like heart health and sexual orientation, but that’s only the start of the project. From there, the task turned to determining why this gap exists and what can be done to narrow it moving forward. On that point, there are many possible explanations for the lower scores of lesbian and bisexual women. 

For one thing, weight plays a factor in heart health, and known disparities exist in this area. Lesbian women are more likely to be overweight or obese when compared to heterosexual women, while the opposite is true in men. So, that difference would be a good starting point in looking at why heart health scores might be different. Also, stress can play a key role here, and it is known that stresses exist for women in these categories that might not be experienced by straight women or gay and bisexual men. 

Everyone should have the same access to healthcare, and the same opportunity to be well, regardless of sexual orientation. Findings like this make it obvious that such a reality does not yet exist, and plenty of hard work in plenty of different aspects of society and healthcare will be required to continue to work toward a level playing field.


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