Women who go into early menopause are twice as likely to suffer from coronary heart disease and stroke, new Johns Hopkins-led research suggests.
The association holds true in patients from a variety of different ethnic backgrounds, the study found, and is independent of traditional cardiovascular disease risk factors, the scientists say.
"If physicians know a patient has entered menopause before her 46th birthday, they can be extra vigilant in making recommendations and providing treatments to help prevent heart attacks and stroke," says Dhananjay Vaidya, Ph.D., an assistant professor in the Division of General Internal Medicine at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, and leader of the study published in the October issue of the journal Menopause. "Our results suggest it is also important to avoid early menopause if at all possible."
For example, he says, research has shown that smokers reach menopause, on average, two years earlier than non-smokers do, so quitting smoking may delay it.
Notably, the researchers said, their findings about the negative impact of early menopause were similar whether the women reached it naturally or surgically, via removal of reproductive organs, he says, though more research is needed. Often, Vaidya says, women who undergo hysterectomies have their ovaries removed, which precipitates rapid menopause. "Perhaps ovary removal can be avoided in more instances," he says, which might protect patients from heart disease and stroke by delaying the onset of menopause.
Cardiovascular disease is the number one killer of women in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Previous studies, Vaidya says, have shown a link between early menopause and heart disease and stroke among white women, but similar associations had not been demonstrated in more diverse populations. Hispanic and African-American women, he says, tend, on average
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Johns Hopkins Medicine