Transgender youths more likely to develop risk factors for heart disease, other illnesses

WASHINGTON — While transgender individuals tend to face more societal challenges, researchers say they may also face more health issues too. Their study finds transgender adolescents are more likely to develop conditions like high blood pressure, high BMI, and liver dysfunction. This is in comparison to their cisgender peers — or adolescents whose gender identity matches their birth sex.

Simply put, transgender youths have higher odds of developing conditions which put them at risk for cardiovascular or metabolic disease.

That’s the main finding of a new study focusing on over 4,000 adolescents diagnosed with gender dysphoria. The term refers to individuals who feel deep distress over their gender identity not matching their sex assigned at birth. Study authors find roughly 1.8 percent of adolescents now identify as transgender.

“This is the first study of its size in the United States of which we are aware that looks at the odds of youth with a diagnosis of gender dysphoria having medical diagnoses that relate to overall metabolic and cardiovascular health,” says lead researcher Anna Valentine, M.D., of the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus, in a media release.

Some health risks for transgender youths nearly double the average of their peers

Researchers compared 4,174 transgender youths with a diagnosis of gender dysphoria to 16,651 adolescents not dealing with the condition. Specifically, the team calculated the odds of obesity, high blood pressure, high blood sugar, and liver dysfunction among each group. They also analyzed the chances of developing other conditions such as polycystic ovary syndrome and abnormal cholesterol.

The process led researchers to conclude transgender youths are 1.8 times more likely to deal with abnormal cholesterol. They are also 1.4 times more likely to have liver dysfunction and 1.3 times as likely to develop high blood pressure in comparison to cisgender adolescents. Transgender males are 1.5 times more prone to being overweight or obese and 1.9 times as likely to have polycystic ovary syndrome.

“As research in pediatric transgender medicine is emerging, showing what medical conditions are being diagnosed more often in this population can help individuals, families and health care providers better manage their health,” Valentine concludes.

Researchers presented their findings virtually at ENDO 2021, the Endocrine Society’s annual meeting.