Aging Heart Attacks

Menopause onset does not raise risk of heart attacks

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Menopause and its hormonal changes can cause many symptoms including hot flashes, sleeplessness and night sweats. Menopause isn't causal, however in heart attacks.

Contradicting current medical beliefs, a new study from Johns Hopkins indicates that spikes in cardiovascular death in women are due to aging, not the hormonal affects of menopause.

"Eat a healthy diet and exercise to reduce heart attack risks."

Dhananjay Vaidya, Ph.D., an assistant professor of medicine at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and the study's leader reports that the study data shows there is not big spike in fatal heart attacks after women go through menopause. Her team believes that cells in the body are all aging, including the cells of the arteries and heart.

Aging itself is the reason for more heart attacks, not menopause. They did not find that the hormonal changes associated with menopause add to incidence of heart attacks.

Vaidya also reports that surprisingly, the mortality curve for men under 45 years of age increases by 30 percent every year. Then, after 45 years of age, it roughly slows to 5 percent a year, which is comparable to the rate a woman experiences her entire life.

This data makes researchers think that something going on biologically in younger men can be hurting their hearts. Vaidya suggests a shift from looking at menopause in women to looking at whatever is going on in young men to determine why they are more vulnerable for heart attacks. As is always the case, good research suggests new questions to be studied.

Vaidya suggests one cause is telomere length. Telomeres are found at the end of every chromosome in the body and tend to shorten with age. When the telomeres become too short, the body will begin aging rapidly.

Telomeres are the same length in male and female infants, but dramatically shorten earlier in the life of a young man than in women. This may be one of the reasons men have increased heart attack deaths when younger than women.

Good news from the study: The generations with better nutrition, lifestyles, preventive care and drugs had lower incidences of heart disease than the less healthy generations.

These findings are published in the British Medical Journal.

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Review Date: 
September 6, 2011
Last Updated:
September 8, 2011