Women who go through menopause early have a higher rate of heart failure, according to a new study and smoking increases this rate further. Research already pointed to a relationship between early menopause and heart disease (usually atherosclerotic heart disease), but this study from the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden, is the first to demonstrate a link with heart failure. It is also the first large-scale (including more than 22,000 postmenopausal women) and long-term study linking early menopause and heart disease. The research included more than 22,000 postmenopausal women. It was made possible by the Swedish National Patient Register, which captures nearly all Sweden's hospitalisation and outpatient diagnoses; Sweden's Cause of Death Register; and health surveys of some 90,000 women in the Swedish Mammography Cohort.
Analysis of the data showed that women who went through menopause naturally at an early age had a rate of heart failure 40% higher than women who went through menopause at the usual age of between 50 and 54. (The average is 51.) And for every one-year increase in age at menopause, the rate of heart failure was 2% lower.
Smokers are known to go through menopause an average of one year earlier than non-smokers, but this did not completely explain the early menopause and heart failure connection, since women who had smoked earlier in their lives and quit also had an increased rate of heart failure with early menopause. In addition, women who smoked, even if they had given up earlier, had a higher risk of heart failure if they went through menopause only somewhat early, at ages 46 to 49.
"Menopause, early or late, is always a good time to take more steps to reduce heart disease risk through exercise, a healthy diet, weight loss, and stopping smoking”, says Dr Margery Gass, Executive Director of the North American Menopause Society (NAMS). "This thought-provoking study should encourage more research to find out how early menopause and heart failure are linked. Do the factors that cause heart failure also cause ovarian failure?"
The results of the study were published online in Menopause, the journal of The North American Menopause Society (NAMS).
The time of a woman’s life when her ovaries stop releasing an egg (ovum) on a monthly cycle, and her periods ceaseFull medical glossary