A UK study suggested that girls who start menstruating before they are 12 years old may have a greater risk of heart disease and stroke later in life than their peers who go through puberty later, Reuters reported.
For the study, researchers examined data on more than 500,000 middle-aged adults who did not have a history of heart disease, including more than 267,000 women. Researchers followed half of the participants for at least seven years, and during that time about 9,000 men and women developed heart disease or experienced a heart attack or stroke.
Women typically start menstruating when they were 13 years old. When they got their first period before age 12, women were 10 percent more likely to develop cardiovascular disease than when they started menstruating at age 13 or older, the study found.
According to study co-author Sanne Peters of the George Institute for Global Health at the University of Oxford in the UK, obesity might explain some of this connection. Previous studies have linked early puberty to obesity in both children and adults, Peters said by email.
The study co-author added: “However, there is no straightforward link. Our findings show that the risk of developing cardiovascular disease increases for both women of healthy weight and women who are overweight or obese, which suggests we need more research to understand the association between an early first menstrual cycle and a greater risk of heart disease and stroke later in life.”
Researchers reported in the journal Heart that other reproductive health factors also appeared to influence the risk of heart disease in women. Women who went through menopause early, before age 47, were 33 percent more likely to develop cardiovascular disease and 42 percent more likely to have a stroke than women who went through menopause later, the study found.
A history of miscarriages was also linked to a higher risk of cardiovascular disease, with each miscarriage tied to a 6 percent increase in the odds of heart problems.