Researchers analyzed data from more than 300,000 women who were part of 15 studies around the world, and found that women who reached menopause before age 50 were more likely to have a non-fatal heart problem, such as a heart attack, angina or stroke.
"Women under 40 who experience premature menopause were nearly twice as likely to have a non-fatal cardiovascular event before the age of 60. This is compared to women who reach menopause between the ages of 50 or 51, during what is considered the standard developmental period," said senior study author Gita Mishra. She's a professor in the School of Public Health at the University of Queensland, in Australia.
Women who entered menopause between ages 40 and 44 were 40% more likely to have a heart condition, Mishra added.
Previous research has shown a link between early menopause and fatal heart problems, the study authors explained in a university news release.
"The relationship with nonfatal cardiovascular events was unclear until now," Mishra said. "Smoking, being overweight or obese, and having lower education levels can also strengthen the link between early menopause and a woman's risk of cardiovascular disease."
The findings have significant clinical and public health implications, according to study leader Dongshan Zhu, a doctoral candidate in public health at the university.
"Identifying women with early menopause offers a window of opportunity for their doctors to work with them to monitor and actively manage cardiovascular disease risk factors," he said in the news release. "Early clinical diagnosis will help to improve overall cardiovascular health in their postmenopausal years."
The report was published online Oct. 3 in The Lancet: Public Health.