Pre-Menopause Menstrual Cycle Length and It’s Relation To Heart Disease

Women and men are the most common victims of cardiovascular disease. It causes one in three deaths in women each year—more than all forms of cancer combined. Many of us don’t recognize the dangers cardiovascular disease presents to our health.

Heart disease can affect women at any age, and it’s vital that we understand our personal risk factors and family history. According to the American Heart AssociationNearly 45% (20+) of females have some form cardiovascular disease. Additionally, pregnancy and menopause can increase your risk.

Even though menopause doesn’t cause heart disease, it’s at this point in midlife when our cardiovascular risk factors can accelerate. At this time of life, it is vital to pay attention to our heart health.

The previous research has been published by BMJResearch has shown that irregular and long-term periods in adulthood and adolescence are associated with a higher risk of death from cardiovascular disease. So researchers were curious to look at the relationship between heart disease and menstrual cycles during the menopausal transition—and what they found may surprise you.

The Study: A View

As we get closer to menopause, our menstrual cycles are usually longer. According to A new study was published in MenopauseThis change in the length of our cycles could give us some clues as to our individual risk for developing heart disease.

The University of Pittsburgh collected data on menstrual cycles from 428 women between 45 and 52 years of age at the time of enrollment. This data was kept for up to 10 year or until the women were post-menopausal. The researchers focused on the lengthening of menstrual cycles during menopause. They then measured arterial stiffness and artery thickness to assess cardiovascular risk.

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Researchers found that people who saw the study had a higher likelihood of seeing an IncreasingTwo years prior to their last period, women who had a longer cycle had higher vascular health scores than those who had a regular cycle.

These results indicate that differences in cycle length—along with other menopause-related characteristics and health measures—could help predict which menopausal women are at greater or lesser risk of cardiovascular disease. This could help doctors recommend individual strategies for prevention.

“Cardiovascular disease is the [number one] killer of women, and the risk significantly increases after midlife, which is why we think that menopause could contribute to this disease,” explained lead author Samar El Khoudary, Ph.D., associate professor of epidemiology at Pittsburgh’s Graduate School of Public Health, A University of Pittsburgh news release.

“Menopause is not just a click of a button,”She went on. “It’s a multistage transition where women experience many changes that could put them at higher risk for cardiovascular disease. Change in cycle length, which is linked to hormone levels, is a simple metric that might tell us who is more at risk.”

Analyzing the Results

The results of the study noted three distinct trajectories in the length of the participants’ menstrual cycles over the course of their menopausal transition. The majority—62%—had stable cycles that didn’t change much before they entered menopause.

Around 16% experienced an increase in their cycle length five years before the end, while 22% saw a late increase two years before the end.

The women with unstable cycles had significantly higher artery hardness and thickness than those in the late-increase category. This indicates that they are less likely to develop heart disease. The poorest measures of arterial health were found in those in the early-increase category.

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This is surprising considering the research that has been done on the relationship between shorter menstrual cycles and higher risk of developing heart disease. Studies that suggested high estrogen levels could protect the heart of young women who have short periods had been disproven. However, this can change with age.

“These findings are important because they show that we cannot treat women as one group: Women have different menstrual cycle trajectories over the menopause transition, and this trajectory seems to be a marker of vascular health,”El Khoudary observed.

“This information adds to the toolkit that we are developing for clinicians who care for women in midlife to assess cardiovascular disease risk and brings us closer to personalizing prevention strategies.”

El Khoudary and her colleagues hypothesize that hormone levels may be behind the menstrual cycle changes during menopause. It’s possible that estrogen is less protective in older women. To test this theory, the researchers will be keeping track of hormone changes in future research.

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