By Lisa Rapaport
(Reuters Health) – Women who undergo menopause earlier in life may be more likely to have a heart attack or stroke before they are 60 years old than their counterparts who are passing away menopause later, recently
Researchers examined data from 15 observational studies with a total of over 300,000 women, including nearly 13,000 women who experienced events such as heart attack or stroke after menopause.
Compared to menopausal women 50 or 51 years of age, women who experienced premature menopause before the age of 40 are 55% more likely to have events such as heart attack or stroke after menopause. With early menopause, 40 to 44 years old, women were 30% more likely to have cardiovascular events after menopause; with relatively early menopause, 45 to 49 years, the increased risk was 1
"Heart disease is a leading cause of illness and death for women," says senior study author Gita Mishra of the University of Queensland in Brisbane, Australia.
"These findings will help identify women at greatest risk of cardiovascular disease, for closer monitoring and earlier diagnosis and even prevention of the disease," Mishra says via email.
Women undergo menopause when they stop menstruation. Because the ovaries limit the production of the hormones estrogen and progesterone, women may experience symptoms ranging from vaginal dryness to mood swings, joint pain and insomnia.
Earlier menopause was previously associated with an increased risk of heart disease, osteoporosis, diabetes, and sleep problems. In addition, it may leave women with less reproductive years, especially when preceded by premature ovarian failure, when the ovaries stop working before the age of 40.
In this study, women were, on average, 50 years old when they underwent menopause. Only 1.2% of women in the study had premature menopause before the age of 40; and 4.7% experience early menopause from 40 to 44 years.
Among women who have had events such as heart attack or stroke after menopause, an average of 13.5 years have elapsed between menopause and these cardiovascular events, according to researchers at Lancet Public Health.
Compared to women who have not experienced events such as heart attack or stroke, women who were less likely to be educated and more likely to be obese, and current smokers with a history of high blood pressure.
The study is not a controlled experiment designed to demonstrate whether or how menopause time can directly affect cardiovascular health.
One limitation of the analysis is that many of the cardiovascular events were self-reported by participants in the study, not corroborated by medical records. It is also possible that the use of hormonal therapy after menopause may affect the results, the study notes.
Still, the results underscore the need for women to be hypervigilant for heart health if they go through menopause earlier in life, Mishra said.
"For women experiencing early menopause, the active management of other cardiovascular risk factors, such as avoiding cigarette smoking and maintaining a healthy body weight, are even more important in reducing their overall risk of cardiovascular disease, Mishra not recommended. "These women may also consult health professionals for regular monitoring of the risk of cardiovascular disease."
SOURCE: http://bit.ly/2Mut8yV Lancet Public Health, online October 3, 2019