Menopause before 40 linked to greater stroke risk, study says

MedlinePlus defines menopause as the time in a woman's life when her period stops.

A recent study has shown another risk related to early menopause: a greater risk of stroke.

Findings published in the American Heart Association journal, Stroke, Thursday reveal that menopause before 40 could lead to increased ischemic stroke risk. That is, stroke related to blood vessel blockages. The risk decreased by 2% each year that menopause was delayed.

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“It is of utmost importance for all women to try and achieve optimal cardiovascular health before and after menopause, but it is even more important for women with early menopause,” Dr. Yvonne van der Schouw, the study’s co-author and a professor of chronic disease epidemiology at Utrecht University in the Netherlands said in a press release.

For the study, researchers reviewed data from 16,244 postmenopausal Netherlands women from ages 26 to 70. Women were followed for around 15 years. Adjusting for age, smoking, systolic blood pressure and body mass index, researchers discovered women who had menopause before 40 had a 1.5 times greater risk of ischemic stroke compared to women who had it between 50-54. Stroke risk also was 2% lower for each year menopause didn’t occur.

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Additionally, the study found a stronger connection between stroke and natural menopause compared to surgery-induced menopause. The surgery removed the ovaries.

Van der Schouw said the findings indicate new research is needed on the association between early menopause and stroke risk. More studies “may eventually lead to new, still unknown pathways and new clues for preventive measures,” she said.

According to the Office on Women’s Health, about 5% of women have naturally early menopause. Certain treatments or medications can make menopause occur sooner. The Cleveland Clinic said smoking, infections including mumps or autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis can also cause premature menopause, or menopause before 40.

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