Oxford, UK (BBN) – Girls who menstruate before the age of 12 have a 10 per cent higher risk of having a heart attack or stroke in later life, a new study suggests.
This is compared to women who had been 13 or older when they started their periods, reports dailymail.
Those who had them younger also faced an increased chance of having pregnancy complications, an early menopause and a hysterectomy – which are all linked to cardiovascular disease, say the researchers.
The study, by The George Institute for Global Health, University of Oxford, did not offer any explanation for the findings.
But new research has found going through puberty early – before the age of 13 – makes women twice as likely to suffer a stroke in later life and the team said it was because they are prone to reduced blood flow in the body.
This can lead to a reduced amount of oxygen reaching the brain, causing the death of tissue and leading to a potentially deadly stroke, experts warned.
Furthermore, past research suggests the onset of puberty in girls has become earlier over the last few decades – and there is strong evidence that the increasing rates of obesity in children over the same time period is a major factor.
The average age for a girl to start her periods is between 12 and 13, although there is some variation of this.
The authors of the latest study, published in the journal Heart, said their results suggest girls who are under 12 when they first menstruate should get heart check-ups more often.
‘More frequent cardiovascular screening would seem to be sensible among women who are early in their reproductive cycle, or who have a history of adverse reproductive events or a hysterectomy, as this might help to delay or prevent their onset of [cardiovascular disease]’ they wrote
The team analyzed Biobank data, which included records of 267,440 women up to the age of 69.
Their findings show a strong link between all the conditions. Those who went through the menopause early (before the age of 47) had a 33 per cent heightened risk of cardiovascular disease.
This rose to 42 percent for their risk of stroke, after taking account of other potentially influential factors.
Previous miscarriages were linked with a higher chance of heart disease, with each miscarriage increasing the risk by six percent.
And stillbirth was associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease in general (22 per cent) and of stroke in particular (44 per cent).
Hysterectomy was linked to a heightened risk of cardiovascular disease (12 per cent) and of heart disease (20 per cent).
And those who had had their ovaries removed before a hysterectomy were twice as likely to develop cardiovascular disease as those who hadn’t had these procedures.
Young age at first parenthood seemed to be another risk factor, with each additional year of age lessening the risk of cardiovascular disease by around 3 per cent.
But the association between the number of children and cardiovascular disease was similar for men and women, suggesting that social, psychological, and behavioral factors may be more important than biological ones.
The researchers explained that this is an observational study, so no firm conclusions can be drawn about cause and effect.
They also point out that the age of first menstruation was based on recall, which may not have always been completely accurate.