As women approach menopause, the length of their menstrual cycle usually lengthens. The timing of these changes could provide clues to a person’s risk of developing heart disease, according to a new study from the
University of Pittsburgh and published in the magazine
The research has analyzed duration changes of the cycle during the menopausal transition and concludes that women whose cycle increased two years before their last menstrual period they had better vascular health markers than those that had stable cycles during this transition.
Combined with other menopause-related health features and measures, changes in cycle length could help clinicians to predict which patients they may have a higher or lower risk of cardiovascular disease and recommend preventive strategies.
“Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death for women and the risk increases significantly after middle age, so we believe that menopause may contribute to this disease,” said lead author Samar El Khoudary of the School of Public Health from
University of Pittsburg.
‘Menopause is not activated by clicking a button. Is a multi-phase transition in which women experience many changes that could put them at higher risk for cardiovascular disease. The change in cycle length, which is related to hormone levels, it is a simple measure that could indicate we are at higher risk, ”the researchers write.
The average length of a menstrual cycle is approximately 28 days, but this fact can vary widely among women.
Women who have frequent short cycles spend more time with high estrogen levels compared to those with long cycles, and this variation in hormone levels could explain why wide and irregular cycles during the reproductive years they have been linked to cardiovascular diseases, breast cancer, osteoporosis and other pathologies.
The study included 428 women from 45 to 52 years that were followed during a maximum of 10 years or until postmenopause. Data were collected on the menstrual cycle during the transition to menopause and cardiovascular risk after menopause was assessed by measuring the arterial stiffness or the thickness of the arteries.
The researchers observed three behaviors different in the length of the menstrual cycle during the menopause transition.
About the 62% of the participants had stable cycles that did not change noticeably before menopause, while between the 16% and 22% they experienced a increased frequency, defined as an increase in cycle length five years or two years before your last menstrual period, respectively.
Compared to women with stable cycles, those in the augmentation group late frequency had significant measures more favorable hardness and thickness of the arteries, indicating a lower risk of cardiovascular disease. Women in the early rise group had the worst measures of artery health.
“These findings are important because they show that we cannot treat women as a single group: women have different profiles of menstrual cycle during the menopausal transition, and this trajectory appears to be a marker of vascular health, “said Khoudary.
According the study, it is unknown why the risk of cardiovascular disease was higher in participants with stable cycles compared to the late augmentation group. Although research shows that high estrogen levels can protect the heart in young women with short cycles, this hormone can be less protective during old age.