(HealthDay News) – Women who experience menopause before the age of 46 have an increased risk of coronary heart disease and stroke, according to a study published in the October issue of Menopause.

Melissa Wellons, MD, NCMP, of the University of Alabama in Birmingham, and colleagues conducted a longitudinal cohort study involving 2,509 ethnically-diverse women aged 45–84 years to examine the correlation between early menopause (before the age of 46 years) and the risk of future coronary heart disease and stroke. Participants were enrolled in 2000–2002, were free of cardiovascular disease at baseline, and were followed until 2008.

Twenty-eight percent of women reported either natural or surgical early menopause. The researchers identified significantly worse coronary heart disease and stroke-free survival for women with early menopause. After adjustment for confounding variables, including traditional cardiovascular disease risk factors, the association persisted and women who experienced early menopause had a significantly increased risk of coronary heart disease and stroke (hazard ratio, 2.08 and 2.19, respectively).

“In summary, our findings demonstrate a moderate association between early menopause and future coronary heart disease and stroke,” the authors write. “This adds to the body of evidence that early menopause may identify the at-risk woman who may benefit from aggressive cardiovascular disease primary prevention. Strategies to prevent early menopause, such as avoidance of smoking and oophorectomy, may have significant public health relevance for the prevention of cardiovascular disease in women.”

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