The risks of heart attacks and strokes for women on HRT are already well documented, but now seems there is also an increased risk for women who reach menopause before the age of 46.
Researchers at the University of Alabama studied more than 2,500 women who were aged 45 to 84 when the investigation began in 2000. Of all the women participating, 18 percent said they experienced menopause naturally before age 46 while 10 percent reported earlier early menopause due to having a hysterectomy.
None of these women had heart problems or a stroke before the age of 55, but after that, the researchers reported, women who had early menopause (naturally or otherwise) were more than twice as likely to have had a heart attack, stroke, chest pain (angina), heart bypass surgery or a suddenly stopped heart than women who reached menopause at a later age.
What is interesting is that these increased risks were apparent even after researchers took weight gain into consideration, which is a natural and common occurrence at menopause.
These figures, although startling, may not be as worrying as they first appear because the reality is that the risk for women of heart attack and stroke is a very serious one as we get older in any event. The age at which menopause begins may be an increased factor but the reality is that by the age of 65 a woman’s rate of heart disease equals that of men. In the United States, heart disease is the leading cause of death among women and the UK is not far behind.
You can’t help getting older, or having an early menopause, but to lower your risk of heart disease you can take positive, preventive action. The biggest risk factors are smoking, high blood pressure and cholesterol levels, being overweight and having an unhealthy diet.
To counteract those factors you should stay close to your ideal weight and get regular physical activity. I also recommend an anti-inflammatory diet with lots of omega-3 fatty acids (either in the form of omega-3 rich foods or as supplements) and antioxidants – including vitamins A and C – plus the minerals potassium and magnesium.