Menopause Study Finds Heart Disease Risk Jumps for Women Under 45

The risk of cardiovascular disease is 50 percent higher for women who begin menopause prematurely, a new study found.

Early menopause may lead to an early grave.

Women who experience early-onset menopause, which strikes 10 percent of the time before the age of 45, can have dire health consequences later in life, according to a new study released in the journal JAMA Cardiology.

The risk of cardiovascular disease is 50 percent higher for women who begin menopause prematurely and they are 20 percent more likely to die as a result, the study found. The analysis used the data of more than 300,000 women culled from 32 studies over a 25-year span dating to the 1990s, according to lead author Taulant Muka, MD, a postdoctoral researcher at Erasmus University Medical Center in the Netherlands.

Early Menopause is one of several unique factors that play a role in an increased risk of heart disease and stroke among women, along with pregnancy-related issues such as gestational diabetes, hypertension and pre-eclampsia and rheumatologic condition, according to Stacey E. Rosen, MD, vice president of women's health at Northwell Health's Katz Institute for Women's Health.

“The finding that early menopause also increases a women’s risk should remind us that all health care providers taking care of women should take a careful and thorough Ob/Gyn history and understand the connection between these issues and future risk for cardiovascular disease,” Dr. Rosen said. “The findings also highlight the need for a truly collaborative and patient-focused approach to women to insure that we break down silos that sometime exist and can prevent optimal health and wellness.”

Prevention matters. Exercise and a healthy diet, coupled with regular checkups, are an effective counterbalance.

“Compared to women over 50 entering menopause, these younger newly-menopausal women seemed to be at a somewhat increased risk for cancer and stroke,” said Jill Maura Rabin, MD, Co-Chief, Ambulatory Care & Women's Health at Northwell Health. “The explanation for this may be – at least in part – that earlier menopause may indicate earlier overall aging of the body … in addition and related to hormonal decline.

“There is some good news, however, as this is a unique opportunity for women who reach menopause before age 50 to stay healthy by modifying their risk factors,” Dr. Rabin added. “Risk reduction includes healthy diet, an exercise program, stress reduction, and of course, regular medical checkups.”