Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is the leading cause of death in women, who have a markedly increased risk of this disease after menopause and generally develop coronary heart disease several years later than men.
According to a new study led by researchers at the University of Pittsburgh, as women approach menopause, the length of their menstrual cycle tends to lengthen. The timing of these changes could provide clues to a person’s risk of developing heart disease.
Average length of a menstrual cycle
According to the results of the study, women whose cycle increased two years before their last menstrual period had better vascular health measures than those who had stable cycles during this transition. In combination with other characteristics and health measures related to menopause, changes in cycle length could help doctors predict which patients may be at higher or lower risk for cardiovascular disease and recommend preventive strategies.
As the lead author explains, Samar El Khoudary, associate professor of epidemiology at Pitt Graduate School of Public Health:
Menopause is not just about the clicking of a button. It is a multi-stage transition in which women experience many changes that could put them at higher risk for cardiovascular disease. The change in cycle length, which is related to hormone levels, is a simple metric that could indicate to us that we are at higher risk.
The average length of a menstrual cycle is approximately 28 days, but this can vary widely between women. Those with frequent short cycles spend more time with high estrogen levels compared to those with fewer long cycles, and this variation in hormone levels could explain why long and irregular cycles during the reproductive years have been linked to cardiovascular disease, cancer breast, osteoporosis and other conditions.
Now he also wants to explore whether menstrual cycle patterns are linked to other cardiovascular risk factors, such as abdominal fat, which he previously found to be associated with heart disease risk in menopausal women.