Menopause typically occurs between ages 45 and 55. Natural menopause (versus surgically or chemically induced) is considered premature if it occurs before a woman is 40 years old and early if it occurs between 40 and 45 years.
Women who experience menopause at an earlier age have a higher risk of cardiovascular disease.
When a woman goes through menopause can be influenced by factors such as:
- Length of their monthly menstrual cycle
- Poor cardiovascular risk profile during reproductive years
- Socioeconomic factors.
- Race and ethnicity also play a role: Many Hispanic and Black women experience menopause at younger ages.
Can a heart attack or stroke lead to early menopause?
A 2019 study found women who had a cardiovascular event before age 35 had twice the risk of starting menopause by the time they reached 45. Women who had an event after 40 were more likely to begin a "normal" menopause at around 51.
Past studies have found a link between women who had early menopause and an increased risk of cardiovascular disease. But this group of researchers set out to see whether the reverse is true: Could a stroke, heart attack or other cardiovascular event in young women contribute to early menopause?
Presenting data on 177,131 women pooled from nine studies, the women were categorized according to age they went into menopause, classifying anyone who started before age 45 as "early." The researchers also looked at their self-reported cardiovascular events, such as heart attack, angina and stroke.
The findings illustrated the strong connection between female hormone levels and overall health, particularly heart disease. Lower estrogen is associated with a higher risk for heart disease for various reasons, including the hormone's positive effect on keeping blood vessel and artery walls flexible.
Because most of the women in the study were white, more research is needed to see whether the findings hold firm in other races and ethnic groups.