A recent study conducted by the Endocrine Society, headquartered in Chevy Chase, Md, suggests women experiencing early menopause, prior to age 46, are at twice the risk of having a stroke, heart attack, or other cardiovascular disease later in life than women who do not experience early menopause. The study’s findings were presented at the Endocrine Society’s annual meeting in San Diego. Melissa Wellons, MD, study principal author, fellow at the University of Alabama, Birmingham, emphasizes that it is key for women to recognize early menopause as a potential risk factor for cardiovascular disease. “They can then work harder to improve their modifiable risk factors, such as high cholesterol and blood pressure, by exercising and following healthy diet,” Wellons adds.

According to a news release, at the study’s inception in July 2000, researchers assessed female participants aged 45 years to 84 years old. The findings indicate that nearly 28% of participants reported early menopause, 446 participants exhibited natural menopause, and 247 participants had surgical menopause. Researchers note that participants who were not yet past menopause were included in the group without early menopause. Follow-up conducted during the study reportedly tracked whether participants sustained a cardiovascular disease event, such as heart attack, stroke, or death due to stroke, or other cardiovascular disease. The study indicates that none of the participants experienced these events prior to age 55. Following the age of 55, researchers say, early menopausal participants were more likely to have had a cardiovascular disease event than participants who had not gone through menopause by age 46. 

While the results suggest that early menopause remains a risk factor, Wellons adds that it is still unclear why, “Our study is observational; therefore, we cannot conclude that early menopause somehow causes future cardiovascular disease. However, our findings do support the possible use of age at menopause as a marker of future heart and vascular disease.”

Source: The Endocrine Society