How the age a woman reaches menopause can predict risk of silent killer | The Sun

WOMEN'S risk of a killer condition increases the earlier she went through the menopause, scientists have warned.

A study of more than 1.4 million women found that the younger the age at menopause, the higher the risk of heart failure.

Most women go through the menopause between the age of 45 and 55.

A women is considered to have reached menopause once her periods have stopped for a whole year.

But symptoms occur for years both before this point (perimenopause) and afterwards.

An early menopause is before the age of 45, and premature is before the age of 40 – affecting one per cent of women this age.

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Prior studies have found a link between earlier menopause and cardiovascular disease overall.

This study, by researchers at Korea University College of Medicine, Seoul, collected data from the Korean National Health Insurance System (NHIS).

Some 1.4 million women who were over the age of 30 and postmenopausal were involved, of which two percent went through “the change” early. 

Their health was studied over a 10-year period, in which time three per cent developed heart failure. 

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A further 3.2 per cent were diagnosed with atrial fibrillation – a heart condition that causes an irregular and often abnormally fast heart rate.

Women who experienced premature menopause had a 33 per cent higher risk of heart failure, and nine per cent higher risk of atrial fibrillation compared to those who did not.

This was after taking account of factors that may have contributed to heart problems, including smoking, weight and age.

Lead author Dr Ga Eun Nam said: “Women with premature menopause should be aware that they may be more likely to develop heart failure or atrial fibrillation than their peers.

“This may be good motivation to improve lifestyle habits known to be linked with heart disease, such as quitting smoking and exercising.”

The risk of incident heart failure increased as the age at menopause decreased.

Compared to women who were 50 years and above at the menopause, the risks for heart failure and artrial fibrilation, respecitvely, are as follows:

  • Under 40: 39 per cent, 11 per cent
  • Between 40 and 44: 23 per cent, 10 per cent
  • Between 45 and 49: 11 per cent, four per cent

Women don’t tend to suffer heart problems until a later age than men.

This is thought to be because the female sex hormone oestrogen is protective of the heart.

Therefore, the Korean team suspect that the sudden drop in oestrogen at an earlier age accelerates heart disease risk.

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Dr Nam said: “The misconception that heart disease primarily affects men has meant that sex-specific risk factors have been largely ignored. 

“Our study indicates that reproductive history should be routinely considered in addition to traditional risk factors such as smoking when evaluating the future likelihood of heart failure and atrial fibrillation.”

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