Early menopause linked to heart disease
Women who go through early menopause are at higher risk of heart disease and stroke, research has shown.
A study, led by the University of Oxford, also found a strong link between women's reproductive health and the risks of cardiovascular problems. The data suggest that women who began their periods early, had pregnancy complications such as stillbirth, or needed a hysterectomy, were also more likely to develop heart issues.
Dr Sanne Peters, who led the study, said: "Our research suggests policymakers should consider implementing more frequent screening for cardiovascular disease among women with one or more of the risk factors highlighted here, in order to put in place measures that can help delay or prevent the development of heart disease and stroke."
Cardiovascular disease, a general term for conditions affecting the heart or blood vessels, remains a leading cause of death.
The research team drew on data from the UK Biobank, a study of more than half a million men and women, up to the age of 69, who were recruited between 2006 and 2010. They completed questionnaires on their lifestyle, environment, and medical record, including reproductive history. They were monitored up to March 2016 or until they suffered their first heart attack.
Women who went through the menopause before the age of 47 had a 33pc heightened risk of cardiovascular disease, rising to 42pc for their risk of stroke, they found.
Those who began having periods before the age of 12 were at 10pc greater risk of cardiovascular disease than those who were 13 or older when they started, the study said. Miscarriages were associated with a higher risk of heart disease, with each miscarriage increasing the risk by 6pc.
Having a stillbirth was also associated with a higher risk of cardiovascular disease in general (22pc), and of stroke in particular (44pc).
The study, published in the journal 'Heart', found having a hysterectomy was linked to a heightened risk of cardiovascular disease (12pc) and of heart disease (20pc). Women whose ovaries had been removed before a hysterectomy were twice as likely to develop cardiovascular disease as those who had not had these procedures. The researchers said they were unable to explain the link. Previous research has suggested that the early onset of periods is linked to obesity, a known risk factor for heart disease.
The findings also showed the risk of cardiovascular disease rose for women even if they were a healthy weight. (© Daily Telegraph, London)