New study, published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, and conducted by researchers at the University of California-San Francisco (UCSF) School of Medicine, found an association between risk of heart failure and early menopause onset, as well as never having gave birth.
The research consisted of analysing data of 28,516 postmenopausal women enrolled in the Women’s Health Initiative. The volunteers, who originally did not have cardiovascular disease, were clinically followed for an average time of 13.1 years. Of these, 5.2% had heart failure and were admitted to the hospital.
The team then investigated if these women got pregnant, age at their first pregnancy, total number of live births, and total reproductive duration (time between first menstruation and menopause), and correlated this information with their heart failure history.
The results showed an association between a shorter reproductive duration and a higher risk of heart failure. According to the researchers the connection was stronger when women had naturally shorter reproductive periods, i.e. not early menopause due to a surgery.
“Our finding that a shorter total reproductive duration was associated with a modestly increased risk of heart failure might be due to the increased coronary heart disease risk that accompanies early menopause. These findings warrant ongoing evaluation of the potential cardioprotective mechanisms of sex hormone exposure in women,” said senior author Dr Nisha I. Parikh, assistant professor at UCSF School of Medicine.
Additionally, the researchers found that those participants who never gave birth were more prone to develop diastolic heart failure. It seems the association has no association with infertility, according to the scientists.
“There also remain many unresolved questions including the mechanisms of estrogen’s cardioprotective effect, making this truly a work in progress. Altogether, these findings raise interesting questions about the cardiometabolic effects of sex hormone exposure over a woman’s lifetime and continue to raise important questions for future research,” wrote Nandita S. Scott, co-director of the Corrigan Women’s Heart Health Program at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, in an editorial comment published alongside the study.