Women who had their first menstrual cycle at age 10 or younger, or age 17 or older, may be at a higher risk of developing heart disease, stroke and complications of high blood pressure, a new Oxford study of over a million women has found.
Researchers analysed data collected from 1.3 million women aged 50 to 64 years old, who were mostly white.
After over a decade of observation, those women who had their first menstrual cycle at the age of 13 had the least risk of developing heart disease, stroke, and high blood pressure.
Compared to women who had their first menstrual cycle at age 13, women with their first menstrual cycle at age 10 or younger, or age 17 or older, had up to 27 per cent more hospitalisations or deaths due to heart disease; 16 per cent more hospitalisations or deaths from stroke; and 20 per cent more hospitalisations with high blood pressure, or deaths due to its complications.
“The size of our study, the wide range of ages considered, and the vascular diseases being examined made it unique and informative,” said Dexter Canoy, study lead author and cardiovascular epidemiologist at the Cancer Epidemiology Unit, Nuffield Department of Population Health at the University of Oxford in the UK.
“Childhood obesity, widespread in many industrialised countries, is linked particularly to early age at which the first menstrual cycle occurs.
“Public health strategies to tackle childhood obesity may possibly prevent the lowering of the average age of first menstrual cycle, which may in turn reduce their risk of developing heart disease over the long term,” Canoy said.
The effect of age of the first occurrence of menstruation on heart disease was consistently found among lean, over-weight, and obese women, among never, past or current smokers, and among women in lower, middle, or higher socioeconomic groups.
The research was published in the American Heart Association’s journal Circulation.