Rapid menopause can increase the risk of heart disease
Posted Feb 10 2009 10:07am
A study conducted by the Los Angeles Atherosclerosis of 203 women between the ages of 45 and 60 determined that those who transitioned from being premenopausal to fully postmenopausal within three years had a greater buildup of fatty plaque in their carotid arteries. This placed them at an increased risk for a higher rate of "preclinical atherosclerosis" – the narrowing of arteries due to thickening of their artery walls.
Of the 203 women, 52 were premenopausal, 20 were perimenopausal and 131 were postmenopausal. None had prior cardiac disease. The participants were first evaluated as they entered the study, then again at two 18-month intervals. Evaluations were not made using such subjective factors as hot flashes, but rather on carotid intimal-media thickness (cIMT) measurements and objective measures of menopausal status based on hormone levels and physiologic changes.
"We know that more fatty plaque accumulation predicts future heart attacks and strokes, but this is our first venture into this particular line of inquiry,” says the study’s principal investigator, Cardiologist C. Noel Bairey Merz, M.D., Director of the Women's Heart Center and the Preventive and Rehabilitative Cardiac Center at the Cedars-Sinai Heart Institute. "The findings suggest that we study this more definitively to possibly determine if women undergoing a more rapid menopause might benefit from early hormone replacement therapy," she adds. Dr. Merz emphasizes that patients should not use the findings of the study to diagnose themselves. “Women will say they're perimenopausal because they're having hot flashes or sleep disturbances or some cycle irregularity, but those are all symptoms. We use a very specific code of definitions to assess hormones and whether or not the ovaries are cycling."