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Women's Health

Early Menopause Affects Heart Disease Risk

Women who go through menopause before age 46 may double their risk for heart disease and stroke, new research says.

Scientists at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine followed more than more than 2,500 women, ages 45 to 84, for six to eight years. Twenty-eight percent of the women reported early menopause, which occurs before the age of 46.

Photo of two women playing the piano

Women with early menopause had twice the risk for heart disease and stroke compared with other women. The overall number of women in the study who suffered heart attacks (50) and strokes (37) was small, however.

When a woman's periods have stopped for a year, she has reached menopause. Factors that determine when a woman reaches menopause include heredity, diet, and exercise, as well as smoking. Smokers reach menopause an average of two years earlier than nonsmokers, so quitting smoking may delay menopause.

Delaying is best

"Our results suggest it is also important to avoid early menopause if at all possible," says study leader Dhananjay Vaidya, M.D.

Removing the ovaries during a hysterectomy can lead to early menopause. The researchers found that this type of "surgical menopause" also had the same risk for heart disease and stroke as natural menopause. Delaying or foregoing removal of the ovaries may give women added protection from heart disease and stroke.

Dr. Vaidya encourages health care providers to be extra vigilant in making in making recommendations and providing treatments to help women who have entered menopause before age 46 to prevent heart attacks and stroke.

The study appeared in a recent issue of the journal Menopause.

Always talk with your health care provider to find out more information.

Online Resources

(Our Organization is not responsible for the content of Internet sites.)

American Heart Association - Heart Healthy at Any Age

American Heart Association - Spot a Stroke

November 2012

For Women: Take This Risk to Heart

Cardiovascular disease is the top killer of women. According to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, 80 percent of women between the ages of 40 and 60 have at least one risk factor for heart disease, but many don't realize it.

Major risk factors for heart disease are high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, diabetes, obesity or being overweight, smoking, physical inactivity, family history, and age. Factors that could lead to an increased risk include stress and excessive alcohol consumption - for women, that means more than one drink a day.

Once you know your risk factors, you can learn whether you're at high, intermediate, or low risk for heart disease. Then you can set goals and work with your doctor to reach them.

Always talk with your health care provider to find out more information.

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