The average menopausal age for women in America is 51 to 52, but of course this range can also vary depending on your familial background and health history. According to a recent study published in the journal Menopause, smokers, even past smokers, have an increased chance of going through menopause early.
“An association with early menopause and heart failure has been reported. We don’t know if it is cause and effect," Dr. Margery Gass, told Medical Daily. She is also executive director of the North American Menopause Society and an editor for Menopause, the society's journal. “Some scientists think that risk factors for the heart may also be risk factors for the ovary, causing damage that results in earlier menopause. Smoking is a good example of that," she added.
The study from the Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm, Sweden, also showed that there was a relationship between early menopause and atherosclerotic heart disease.
“This [study] does not necessarily prove that there is a decrease in heart failure when you stop smoking, but stop anyway,” Gass encouraged. “Studies do show that there is a decrease in the risk of lung cancer that improves over time after a person stops smoking.”
The research is the first to show a link with heart failure and the body’s inability to pump enough blood for the body to meet its needs. It’s also the first study of its scale with over 22,000 postmenopausal women, which was useful for long-term study linking early menopause and heart disease.
In their research, the women who experienced early menopause — ages 40 to 45 — were 40 percent more likely to have some sort of heart failure. This is compared to the women who went through menopause in the normal age range of 50 to 54, the investigators found. They also noted that there was a two percent lower risk for heart failure for every year a woman got older, beginning at menopause.
The researchers got their information from the Swedish National Patient Register. This database has nearly all of Sweden's hospitalization and outpatient diagnoses, Sweden's Cause of Death Register, and health surveys of some 90,000 women in the Swedish Mammography Cohort — especially useful for studying illnesses affecting women.
There might be a way to reduce some of these risks, but nothing has been proven conclusively. “Leading a healthy lifestyle may mitigate some of these risks, Gass recommends. “This thought-provoking study should encourage more research to find out how early menopause and heart failure are linked. Do the factors that cause heart failure also cause ovarian failure?"
Source: Rahman I, Akesson A, Wolk A. Relationship between age at natural menopause and risk of heart failure. Menopause. 2014.