Is premature menopause associated with increased risk of heart problems?

Menopause, a decline in reproductive hormones when a woman reaches her 40s or 50s, is a natural part of a woman’s life cycle. However, premature menopause – menopause before 40 years of age – is linked with elevated risks of heart failure and atrial fibrillation, according to a study published in European Heart Journal.

The study, which researched over 1.4 million women, found that the younger the age at menopause, the higher the risk of new-onset heart failure and atrial fibrillation.

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“Women with premature menopause should be aware that they may be more likely to develop heart failure or atrial fibrillation than their peers,” said study author Dr Ga Eun Nam of Korea University College of Medicine, Seoul, Republic of Korea. “This may be good motivation to improve lifestyle habits known to be linked with heart disease, such as quitting smoking and exercising.”

The researchers analysed the association between history of premature menopause and incident heart failure and atrial fibrillation after adjusting for age, smoking, alcohol, physical activity, income, body mass index, hypertension, type 2 diabetes, dyslipidaemia, chronic kidney disease, coronary heart disease, HRT, and age at menarche. It found that women who experienced premature menopause had a 33 per cent higher risk of heart failure and a 9 per cent higher risk of atrial fibrillation as compared to those who did not.

Notably, premature menopause affects one per cent of women. It is defined as having the final menstrual period before the age of 40 years.

premature menopause, heart health Women must consume a healthy diet to alleviate the symptoms (Source: Getty Images/Thinkstock)

The research had the following key observations:

*The risk of incident heart failure increased as the age at menopause decreased.
*Compared with women aged 50 years and above at menopause, those aged 45 to 49, 40 to 44, and below 40 years at menopause had 11 per cent, 23 per cent, and 39 per cent greater risks of incident heart failure, respectively.
*The risk of incident atrial fibrillation increased as the age at menopause decreased, with 4 per cent, 10 per cent, and 11 per cent higher risks for those aged 45 to 49, 40 to 44, and under 40 years at menopause, respectively, compared with women aged 50 years and above at menopause.

Dr Nam added, “Our study indicates that reproductive history should be routinely considered in addition to traditional risk factors such as smoking when evaluating the future likelihood of heart failure and atrial fibrillation.”

Talking about the study, Dr Rachna Verma, Senior Consultant – Gynaecologist, Indian Spinal Injuries Centre, said, “The reasons which can explain the relationship between early menopause and heart ailments are the drop in oestrogen level and changes in body fat distribution in the body.”

She advised women to follow a healthy lifestyle in order to prevent early menopause naturally. “Maintain a moderate body weight, eat healthy foods, and avoid smoking and alcohol. Also, elevated levels of stress hormones can cause early menopause.”

Further, the expert suggested the following treatments for symptom relief:

*Oral contraceptive pills are a form of hormonal therapy which are sometimes used to help relieve menopausal symptoms.
*Antidepressant medications, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and related medications are shown to be effective in controlling the symptoms.

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