At first glance, going through an early menopause may seem like a blessing – no more monthly bloating, mood swings, cramps, worries about mid-life “bonus” babies, and freedom from that pesky monthly visitor! Talk about doing the happy dance! What more could a girl ask for?
As it turns out, going through an early menopause may not be the blessing that is appears to be at first glance. The results of a new study (presented at The Endocrine Society’s 92nd Annual Meeting on June 21, 2010) indicated that women who go through an early menopause may have a much greater risk of developing some type of heart disease, suffering a stroke, or having a heart attack.
On average, most women go through menopause at 51 years. For purposes of this study, menopause was considered early if it occurred before age 46. The study results indicate that women who went through an early menopause, whether a naturally occurring menopause or surgically (removal of both ovaries), had more than double the risk of developing heart related diseases or stroke than their counter-parts who went through menopause after age 51.
These results do not come as a complete surprise. Earlier European studies also indicated a link between early menopause and the risk of developing heart disease later in life. This study is differentiated from those studies in terms of size (2,500 plus participants), and the ethnicities represented. While European studies were primarily focused on white Europeans, these study participants were part of the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis (MESA) and consisted of Chinese-American (13 percent), Hispanic (22 percent), African-American (25 percent), and White (40 percent).
The long-term study began ten years ago in July, 2000. Twenty-eight percent of the women in the study went through an early menopause (either naturally or surgically). All of the women going through an early menopause showed an increased risk of cardiac disease related events including stroke, heart attack, angina, nonfatal cardiac arrest, bypass surgery, angioplasty, and even death due to heart disease, stroke or heart attack. Researchers stopped short of saying that an early menopause causes heart and heart related diseases, but there appeared to be a definitive link between the two.
So, if you are one of the lucky ones (or unlucky ones depending on the viewpoint) to go through an early menopause, what can you do to minimize your risk of future heart disease related complications? First, women need to understand that an early menopause is a risk factor for heart disease right along with obesity, high blood pressure, and family history. According to the study’s author, Melissa Wellons, M.D., women who have an early menopause also need to “work harder to improve their modifiable risk factors, such as high cholesterol and blood pressure, by exercising and following a healthy diet.”
Early menopause linked to higher risk of future cardiovascular disease, Breakthrough Digest Medical News, 20 Jun 2010, http://www.breakthroughdigest.com/medical-news/early-menopause-linked-to-higher-risk-of-future-cardiovascular-disease/