Post-menopausal women who reached menopause at an earlier age or who never gave birth may be at higher risk for heart disease, according to a new study by researchers at University of California San Francisco (UCSF) Health.
In a study of more than 28,000 women without heart disease over an average of 13.1 years, researchers found that while only 5.2 per cent of the women were hospitalised for heart failure during the study, those who never gave birth were 2.75 times more likely to develop diastolic heart failure.
For every additional year at which a woman entered menopause, the risk of heart failure decreased by about one per cent. The findings appear online in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology (JACC).
Why this occurs is still unclear, the researchers said, noting that more research is needed to determine possible mechanisms that link endogenous sex hormone exposure during a woman’s reproductive years to heart disease after menopause.
‘We suspect that factors leading to later menopause aside from estrogen, which is higher in women before menopause, may help protect women from developing heart failure,’ explained senior author, Nisha Parikh, MD, MPH, UCSF Health Cardiologist and Assistant Professor of Cardiology at UC San Francisco.
‘There also are many reasons why women might not ever give birth, but are there identifiable reasons that explain why never giving birth is associated with heart failure? We believe future studies could lend insight into these areas.’