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Early menopause in women could increase risk of heart disease

Researchers say it’s important for women and their doctors to stay informed

Photo (c) limbeta - Fotolia
A new study conducted by researchers from the University of Queensland found that women who experience menopause earlier in life -- before the age of 50 -- could be at an increased risk of developing heart disease. 

The findings could be especially significant for women who are already have an increased risk of cardiovascular problems. Researcher Gita Mishra explained that experiencing early menopause greatly increased the likelihood for this health risk.

“Women under 40 who experience premature menopause were nearly twice as likely to have a non-fatal cardiovascular event before the age of 60,” said researcher Gita Mishra. “This is compared to women who reach menopause between the ages of 50 or 51, during what is considered the standard development period.” 

Understanding the risks

The researchers were able to analyze information from over 300,000 women across 15 different studies by using information from the InterLACE databank. They found that the majority of the women involved in the study went through menopause around age 50, but the risk for cardiovascular disease was highest for those who experienced menopause before then. 

While women aged 70 or older were at the lowest risk of developing heart disease, the researchers found that early menopause remained a risk factor for heart disease for those 60 and younger, with those who went through menopause the earliest being at the highest risk. 

According to Mishra, there are several lifestyle factors that can also play a role in the likelihood of women developing heart disease following early menopause, including “smoking, being overweight or obese, and having lower education levels.” 

The researchers hope that these findings lay the groundwork for doctors to better identify vulnerable patients as early as possible and get them the proper treatment. 

“Identifying women with early menopause offers a window of opportunity for their doctors to work with them to monitor and actively manage cardiovascular risk factors,” said researcher Dongshan Zhu. “Early clinical diagnosis will help to improve overall cardiovascular health in their postmenopausal years.” 

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