Early menopause and risk of cardiovascular disease
The age of menopause usually occurs between 45 and 55 years old.
However, it can also occur in women under 45, we then speak of « early menopause ». When this early menopause occurs in women under 40, it is called « premature ovarian insufficiency ».
Early menopause has immediate visible consequences, especially for women wishing to give birth.
But there are also some medium and long term consequences. In particular, several studies have shown that early menopause increases the risk of cardiovascular disease.
One in ten women
Early menopause can be natural or the result of medical treatment (surgery (ovaries, uterus), chemotherapy, radiotherapy).
In women under 40 years of age, in the first case, we will speak of primary premature ovarian insufficiency, and in the second case of secondary premature ovarian insufficiency.
The global prevalence of cases of primary premature ovarian insufficiency was estimated at 3.7% by a study published in 20191. This prevalence varies depending on geography.
In Europe, studies generally estimate that primary premature ovarian insufficiency affects between 1% and 2% of women under the age of 402.
But natural early menopause as a whole affects more than 10% of women1 !
And, the earlier the menopause, the greater the risk of cardiovascular disease.
Significant increase in risk of cardiovascular disease
The link between early menopause and increased risks of cardiovascular disease has been established for many years through multiple studies.
A 1996 study thus estimated that each year of “delay” for the onset of menopause corresponds to a 2% reduction in the risk of mortality following a cardiovascular disease / cardiovascular incident3.
In 2019, an analysis of 301,438 women concluded that women entering menopause between the ages of 40 and 44 were on average 30% more likely of suffering from cardiovascular diseases than women who enter menopause around age 50 (between 22% and 39% more, with a 95% confidence interval); as for women who entered menopause before the age of 40, they are on average 55% more likely of suffering from a cardiovascular disease (between 38% and 73% more, with a confidence interval of 95%)4.
And most recently, in May 2021, a study involving more than 10,000 women presented at a virtual conference organized by the American Heart Association added another brick to this wall of studies, finding that women who entered menopause before 40 had a 40 % higher risk of suffering from cardiovascular disease.
Number one cause of death
Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death worldwide5.
They are acknowledged as one of the major health risks associated with menopause.
All postmenopausal women are potentially at risk.
But for women with premature ovarian insufficiency, the risks are multiplied and require a thorough medical diagnosis and close medical monitoring.
But for all postmenopausal women, adapting our lifestyle, with goals such as trying to lower blood pressure and cholesterol, plays a key role at this stage of our life.
This means adapting the way we eat, but also adopting a (maybe) new habit of exercising on a regular basis ; the practice of a regular moderate physical activity offers benefits essential for the menopausal woman, and that go well beyond the positive impact at the cardiovascular level.
Are you interested in the experiences of women at different stages of their menopause? Would you like a reminder of the physiology of menopause and the main symptoms? Download our free ebook, Menopause Story(ies).
1: source Golezar S, Ramezani Tehrani F, Khazaei S, Ebadi A, Keshavarz Z. The global prevalence of primary ovarian insufficiency and early menopause: a meta-analysis, 2019, doi:10.1080/13697137.2019.1574738.
2: source H. Letur, B. Martin-Pont, P. Fénichel, Spontaneous pregnancies and premature menopause, 2004, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.gyobfe.2004.07.004.
3: source Age at menopause as a risk factor for cardiovascular mortality, 1996
4: Zhu D, Chung HF, Dobson AJ, et al. Age at natural menopause and risk of incident cardiovascular disease: a pooled analysis of individual patient data. 2019; doi:10.1016/S2468-2667(19)30155-0
5: source WHO