Early Puberty Impacts Heart Risk in Women
Women that reached puberty early or late as a child have increased risk for heart disease later in life, finds study.
Women that reached puberty early or late as a child have increased risk for heart disease later in life, according to a large study conducted in the United Kingdom.
Published in the American Heart Association’s journal, Circulation, this study followed 1.2 million middle-aged women to analyze the impact of puberty on cardiovascular risk. Although past research suggests that girls getting their first menstrual cycle at a very young age have increased risk for heart disease as an adult, most studies have been small and findings are mixed. Experts believe that the timing of puberty can influence cardiovascular and metabolic health in both childhood and adulthood, but more evidence is needed to understand this relationship.
To learn more, researchers analyzed data from the Million Women Study, which includes more than a million women between the ages of 50 and 64. Among study participants without any history of heart disease, researchers asked women to report when they had their first menstrual cycle, ranging from less than 10 years old to later than 17 years old. Investigators also collected information on heart health and followed women for more than 11 years, tracking outcomes.
Among the 1.2 million women included in the study, one quarter of women had their first menstrual cycle at the age of 13, 4% of women had their first cycle before the age of 10 and just 1% of women had their first menstrual cycle after 17 years old. Interestingly, women at either end of the spectrum had greater risk of heart disease compared to those who had their first menstrual cycle somewhere in the middle. Compared to women who had their first menstrual cycle at 13, women hitting this stage before 10 years old had 27% greater risk of heart disease and women experiencing their first menstrual cycle after 17 years of age had 23% greater risk of heart disease.
Based on these findings, researchers believe that hitting puberty very early or late may increase cardiovascular risk in women later in life. Authors also add that since childhood obesity is linked to early menstrual cycles in girls, public health strategies to reduce childhood obesity are especially important.
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