A recent study by JAMA Cardiology has found that women with early-onset menopause are at a higher risk of coronary heart disease, overall mortality, and mortality due to cardiovascular disease. With this, researchers are suggesting that further research should be conducted into the link between early-onset menopause and cardiovascular outcomes.
The risk of developing cardiovascular disease, or CVD, increases as one ages, and because women tend to live longer than men, the number of women currently living with and dying from CVD is higher. Therefore, identifying women who are at a higher risk of CVD is of utmost importance.
Bodily changes which lead to an increased risk of CVD in women occur at around the same age as menopause. To explain this, researchers have proposed in the past that a change in hormone levels during menopause leads to organ dysfunction, and this complication can lead to CVD and death.
As many as 10% of women begin menopause by the time they reach 45 years of age, or in other words, experience early-onset menopause. In thinking about CVD, women who experience early-onset menopause may not only be at risk from a younger age, but may also live for more years at an increased risk. Although this connection has been made, the extent to which age of menopause and time since onset of menopause is associated with CVD and death is not clear. Because of this, researchers have conducted an analysis of previously published works to uncover the answers.
Researchers took studies from Medline, EMBASE, and Web of Science published up to March 2015, wherein they combined terms related to menopause, cardiovascular disease, and mortality to retrieve relevant articles. In total, 33 articles were analyzed.
Overall from the research, it was found that there was an increased risk of coronary heart disease (CHD), all-cause mortality, and CVD mortality in women whose menopause began younger than 45 years of age, compared with 45 years and older.
While this association may be linked to changing hormone levels, as stated above, it is also possible that there are shared risk factors – either in the environment or in one’s DNA – which lead to both early-onset menopause and adverse health outcomes. This means that early-onset menopause could be a future marker for those at an increased risk of CVD.
In conclusion, this study was the beginning of a new lead into the association between early-onset menopause and cardiovascular outcomes. It calls for further research to reliably determine whether the risk of developing CVD varies in relation to the time since menopause began, and the biological mechanisms that make women with early-onset menopause more susceptible to cardiovascular outcomes and mortality.
Written By: Samantha Guy, BSc