Women who go through early menopause are at higher risk of heart disease and stroke, research suggests.
A study led by the University of Oxford also found a strong link women’s reproductive health and her risk of cardiovascular problems.
Women who began their periods early, or who had pregnancy complications such as stillbirth, or who needed a hysterectomy were also more likely to develop heart issues.
The researchers said doctors needed to be more aware of the risk when dealing with women suffering from reproductive problems and increase screening.
Dr Sanne Peters, who led the study, said: “Our research suggests policymakers should consider implementing more frequent screening for cardiovascular disease among women with one or more of the risk factors highlighted here, in order to put in place measures that can help delay or prevent the development of heart disease and stroke.”
Cardiovascular disease, a general term for conditions affecting the heart or blood vessels, remains the leading cause of death and in Britain, killing around 27,000 women every year.
For the study, the team drew on data from the UK Biobank, a large population-based study of more than half a million men and women up to the age of 69, who were recruited between 2006 and 2010.
Participants filled in questionnaires on their lifestyle, environment, and medical history, which included their reproductive history. They were monitored up to March 2016 or until they suffered a first heart attack.
Women who went through the menopause before the age of 47 had a 33 per cent heightened risk of cardiovascular disease, rising to 42 per cent for their risk of stroke, they found.
Those who began having periods before the age of 12 were at 10 per cent greater risk of cardiovascular disease than those who had been 13 or older when they started, the study said.
Previous miscarriages were associated with a higher risk of heart disease, with each miscarriage increasing the risk by 6 per cent.
And having a stillbirth was associated with a higher risk of cardiovascular disease in general (22 per cent) and of stroke in particular (44 per cent).
The study, which is published in the journal Heart, found having a hysterectomy was linked to a heightened risk of cardiovascular disease (12 per cent) and of heart disease (20 per cent).
And those who had had their ovaries removed before a hysterectomy were twice as likely to develop cardiovascular disease as those who had not had these procedures.
Currently the researchers are unable to explain the link. Previous research has suggested that the early onset of periods is linked to obesity, a known risk factor for heart disease in later life.
However the findings showed that the risk of developing cardiovascular disease increased for women even if they were a healthy weight. The researchers also ruled out smoking, diabetes and high blood pressure as possible causes.
“There is no straightforward link,” added Dr Peters. “We need more research to understand the association between an early first menstrual cycle and a greater risk of heart disease and stroke in later life.”
Source: The Telegraph