(RxWiki News) Women typically go through menopause in their early 50s. Hitting menopause before this age might carry some serious risks to the heart.
A recent study found that women who went through early natural menopause (between the ages of 40 and 45 years old) were at increased risk for heart failure compared to women who went through menopause between the ages of 50 and 54 years old.
The researchers discovered that smoking tobacco increased the risk of heart failure for women who went through early natural menopause, as well as for women who went through menopause between the ages of 46 and 49 years old.
"Talk to a cardiologist if you have gone through menopause."
The lead author of this study was Iffat Rahman, PhD, from the Institute of Environmental Medicine at Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm, Sweden.
The study included 22,256 postmenopausal women who had been selected for the Swedish Mammography Cohort between 1987 and 1990.
All the women were born between 1914 and 1948 in either Uppsala or Västmandland counties in Sweden. They all had gone through natural menopause.
The average age of menopause was 51 years old. A total of 1,571 women went through menopause between ages 40 and 45 years old, 4,482 women went through menopause between ages 46 and 49 years old, 12,553 went through menopause between ages 50 and 54 years old (reference group), and 3,650 women were between the ages of 55 and 60 years old at menopause.
This study began in 1997 with a questionnaire on smoking and alcohol habits, physical activity, high blood pressure, and family history of heart attack.
After an average follow-up time of 13 years, the researchers found that there were 2,532 first cases of heart failure ending in either hospitalization or death.
The women who went through menopause between ages 40 and 45 years old were 40 percent more likely to have heart failure compared to the women who went through menopause between ages 50 and 54 years old.
Menopause between the ages of 46 and 49 years old was associated with a 13 percent increased risk of heart failure.
Those in the late menopause group (ages 55 to 60 years old) did not have an increased risk of heart failure.
The researchers determined that every one-year increase in age of menopause was associated with a 2 percent reduced risk of developing heart failure.
Smoking tobacco was also found to be a contributing factor to heart failure risk.
The findings revealed that the women who went through menopause between ages 40 and 45 years old who never smoked had a 33 percent increased risk of heart failure compared to the women who went through menopause between ages 50 and 54 who never smoked.
Ever-smokers in the 40- to 45-year-old age group had a 39 percent increased risk of developing heart failure compared to the ever-smokers in the 50- to 54-year-old age group.
Compared to the ever-smokers who went through menopause between the ages of 50 and 54 years old, the ever-smokers in the 46- to 49-year-old age group had a 25 percent increased risk of developing heart failure.
"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 quitting smoking,” said North American Menopause Society Executive Director Margery Gass, MD. "This thought-provoking study should encourage more research to find out how early menopause and heart failure are linked.”
The authors noted some limitations of their study, including that cases of heart failure that ended in death could have been misclassified in the records used for reference. Also, menopause status was self-reported and not verified with tests.
Furthermore, the researchers did not have detailed information on specific type of heart failure, and the cause of heart failure could have been associated with other factors not known in this study. Lastly, the study population consisted of white women from Sweden, so these findings may not be applicable to women of other races, ethnicities or nationalities.
This study was published on May 14 in Menopause.
The Swedish Research Council Committee for Medicine and the Swedish Research Council Committee for Infrastructure provided funding.