- Women with longer periods two years before menopause had healthier arteries
- Although women with long periods five years before menopause had the worst
- Heart disease is the biggest killer of women in the UK, killing 65 people a day
Research suggests that women who have suffered longer than usual before menopause may be more likely to develop heart disease.
Experts found that women whose cycles lasted more than five years before undergoing the ‘change’ had unhealthy arteries compared to women who barely noticed a change in their menstrual cycle.
However, women with unusually long periods had the warmest arteries for only two years before reaching menopause.
Academics from the University of Pittsburgh made this claim after analyzing data from 428 women between 45 and 52 in the US.
Menopause, which can usually cause symptoms such as hot flushes, most commonly affects women aged 44 to 55 in the UK. Now a new study suggests that the length of the last period before menopause may carry important clues to future risk of heart disease, women’s biggest killer in the UK (stock image)
What is Menopause?
Menopause is defined as the changes that a woman goes through just before and after she stops menstruating and is no longer able to get pregnant naturally.
While some women go through this time with few, if any, symptoms, about 60 percent experience symptoms that result in behavioral changes and one in four will be severely harmed.
Common symptoms include hot flushes, night sweats, vaginal dryness, discomfort during sex, sleep disturbances, decreased sex drive, memory and concentration problems, and mood swings.
Menopause occurs when your ovaries stop producing more of the hormone estrogen and don’t release an egg each month.
In the UK, the average age for a woman to reach menopause is 51, according to NHS.
They looked at whether women’s periods were stable until menopause, or if they became longer in the five years before menopause, or two years before.
Heart disease is the biggest killer of women in the UK, with 24,000 women dying from the disease each year. It is also the leading cause of female death in the US, with 300,000 female deaths annually.
The average menstrual cycle lasts 28 days but it can vary from woman to woman.
According to the NHS, cycles as short as 21 days or as long as 40 are not considered abnormal.
As a woman approaches menopause, menstruation begins to decrease before completely stopping.
But according to research, the exact timing of this transition can provide important clues to a woman’s heart disease risk.
The University of Pittsburgh study also measured the thickness and stiffness of the women’s arteries — a telltale sign of poor heart health with thicker and harder vessels.
Of the women, 62 percent had stable menstrual cycles that did not change in the years before menopause.
While 16 per cent had a longer cycle for five years before their last period, and 22 per cent had a longer cycle for only two years before their last period.
Women who had increased cycle length for two years before menopause had the best arterial health in the study, indicating a lower risk of heart disease.
According to the study published in the journal, people who cycled for five years longer had the worst arteries menopause.
Both of them were compared to women whose periods were stable before menopause.
The researchers suggested that hormone changes associated with cycle length may be behind the different risks of heart disease. But he acknowledged that further research is needed on the subject.
Lead author Professor Samar El Khoudri said menopause should not be considered a quick transition, in which the body goes through various experiences throughout the process.
“Menopause is not just the click of a button,” she said.
‘It is a multistage infection where women experience many changes that can put them at higher risk for heart disease.
‘Change in cycle length, which is linked to hormone levels, is a simple metric that can tell us who is at greater risk.’
She continued: ‘These findings are important because they show that we cannot treat women as a group.
‘Women have different menstrual cycles at the menopausal transition, and this trajectory appears to be a marker of vascular health.
Women going through menopause experience hot flushes, night sweats and vaginal dryness as well as mood swings.
While this usually occurs by age 45, some go through menopause before age 40, a condition known as premature menopause.
The cause of early menopause is unknown but it can be triggered by certain surgeries and treatments, such as chemotherapy.