Earlier menopause is associated with a higher risk of heart failure, according to researchers from seven institutions in the USA
Women from a cohort of the Women’s Health Initiative were systematically evaluated for the incidence of heart failure-related hospitalisation. Out of 28,516 women, 1,494 were taken to hospital with heart failure during the 13.1-year follow up.
Taking into account factors such as age, body mass index and use of oral contraceptives, the researchers found that the number of reproductive years of each woman was inversely associated with the incidence of heart failure. For every year later that a women underwent menopause, there was a 1% decrease in their risk of heart failure (hazard ratio [HR] 0.99 per year (95% confidence interval [CI]: 0.98 to 0.99 per year).
The researchers also found that women who had never given birth had more than a two-fold increase in the risk of diastolic heart failure, compared with those who have given birth (HR: 2.75; 95% CI: 1.16 to 6.52).
However, the researchers highlighted that other factors could have influenced the results: “It could be lifestyle factors at play, certainly you could hypothesise that there could be factors like depression that might underlie the association in some women,” says Nisha Parikh, a cardiologist and co-author of the study from the University of California San Francisco. “Of course, many women choose not to get pregnant and we don’t know what could be at play there as well,” she adds.
Parikh added that she hoped the study would raise awareness of the link between reproductive factors and cardiovascular conditions.