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Early Puberty May Heighten Heart Risks For Women

Posted Nov 15 2012 6:50pm

From CNN / Time…..

Predicting heart disease risk is not an exact science, but doctors are building the case for another tool to guide their evaluations when it comes to women.

Women tend to develop heart disease later in life than men, which makes the familiar risk factors — high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and overweight or obesity — useful, but not entirely reliable predictors of heart trouble.

So researchers involved in the decades-long Framingham Heart Study, one of the most extensive investigations of heart disease risk factors that began in 1948, decided to look at reproductive factors that may refine doctors’ ability to help women learn how vulnerable they are to the disease.

Experts currently believe that women may not experience heart problems until nearly a decade on average after men because of the female hormone estrogen, which shields the heart until menopause, around ages 50 to 60, after which its levels drop dramatically.

That’s why the Framingham researchers focused on 1,638 female children and third generation participants of the original study members, all over age 40, to see if reproductive factors could be correlated to body weight, and in turn, heart disease risk.

They recorded factors such as the age at which a woman began menstruating, the number of children she had, and her age at menopause and connected them to obesity-related measures such as fat distribution in the body and types of fat (visceral fat in the belly area versus less metabolically active subcutaneous fat found underneath the skin).

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