Reproductive Life Span May Affect a Woman’s Heart Risks

A shorter reproductive life span — the time between menarche and menopause — may be linked to a higher risk for cardiovascular disease.

An analysis, published in JAMA Cardiology, pooled data from 12 studies that included 307,855 women who were healthy at menopause. They found that compared with an average reproductive life span of 36 to 38 years, a woman with a span of less than 30 years had a 71 percent higher relative risk of postmenopausal coronary heart disease, heart attack or stroke.

The risk decreased in a straight line as the duration of reproductive life span increased. With a span of 45 years or more, the risk of a cardiovascular event was 39 percent lower than that of a woman with an average span.

Women who had a short reproductive life span and menarche at age 11 or younger were at the highest risk of all.

The senior author, Gita D. Mishra, a professor of epidemiology at the University of Queensland in Brisbane, Australia, said that this is an association that does not prove causation, and that in any case the absolute increase in risk is small.

Still, she added, “this information can be empowering, and something that women can act on, especially if they are at risk of cardiovascular disease for other reasons. Maintain a healthy weight, stay physically fit, monitor glucose and blood pressure — these are things that are known to reduce the risk.”

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