Early onset of menopause can TRIPLE health risks in later life, new research suggests
- Women whose periods stop before 40 are at greater risk of diabetes and strokes
- UK average age for menopause is 51 but around 1 in 100 experience before 40
- Premature menopause is associated with individual health problems later in life
Women who go through an early menopause are three times more likely to suffer from chronic health problems later in life, research shows.
Those whose periods stop before the age of 40 are at greater risk of diabetes, heart disease, strokes, asthma and breast cancer, the study found.
In the UK, the average age for the menopause is 51, but around one in 100 women experience it before the age of 40, according to the NHS.
Those whose periods stop before the age of 40 are at greater risk of diabetes, heart disease, strokes, asthma and breast cancer, the study found (file image)
Researchers from the University of Queensland in Brisbane, Australia, tracked 5,107 women for two decades from 1996, when they were aged between 45 and 50.
Of these, 119 had experienced premature menopause. The women filled in questionnaires about their health every three years until 2016, when they were between 65 and 70.
The study sought to establish if there was a link between early menopause and developing two or more health problems as the women aged.
They were asked about 11 conditions: diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, strokes, arthritis, osteoporosis, asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, depression, anxiety and breast cancer.
Some 71 per cent of women who had a premature menopause had developed two or more of these conditions, known as multimorbidity, by the age of 60.
Premature menopause is associated with individual health problems later in life. The loss of ovarian hormones affects the ageing process in cells and organs, and increases the risk of a range of chronic conditions (file image)
This compared with just 55 per cent of women who experienced menopause at the age of 50-51.
After adjustments for other factors that could influence the results, the researchers found that women who had an early menopause were twice as likely to develop multimorbidity by 60.
They were also three times as likely to develop multimorbidity after they had turned 60, compared with those who reached menopause aged 50-51, according to the study, which is published in the journal Human Reproduction.
Professor Gita Mishra, senior author of the paper, said: ‘Premature menopause is associated with an increased risk of developing multimorbidity, even after adjusting for previous chronic conditions and for possible factors that could affect the results, such as whether or not the women had children, how many, education, body mass index, smoking and physical activity.’
It is already known that premature menopause is associated with individual health problems later in life. The loss of ovarian hormones affects the ageing process in cells and organs, and increases the risk of a range of chronic conditions.
But this is believed to be the first study to look at the link between the onset of menopause and developing two or more conditions later.
What is the menopause?
The menopause is when a woman stops having periods and is unable to get pregnant naturally.
It is a natural part of ageing that typically occurs in women between the age of 45 and 55 years of age, as oestrogen levels decline.
In the UK, the average age for menopause to start is 51 however one in 100 women experience it before 40, which is known as premature menopause.
Symptoms can be severe and have an impact on a woman’s everyday life.
These include hot flushes, sweating, low mood, vaginal dryness, difficulty sleeping along with concentration and memory problems.
Such symptoms can begin months or even years before a last period and continue for another four years with some women experiencing them for much longer.
Lifestyle changes and treatments include hormone replacement therapy (HRT) and eating a healthy balanced diet with regular exercise.