Irregular periods increase risk of heart disease
Women who have irregular menstrual periods may be at an increased risk of heart disease compared with women with regular cycles, according to recent research carried out at the Women's Hospital in Boston, Massachusetts,
The study was based on a questionnaire given to more than 82,000 female nurses aged 20 to 35 who provided information in 1982 on prior menstrual regularity. The women were then followed for over 14 years to see whether they developed heart disease or suffered a stroke.
A total of 1,417 women developed heart disease during the study follow-up, and 838 had a stroke. Irregular periods did not lead to significant increase in the risk of stroke. However, the team found that irregular periods were associated with higher chances of heart disease. Women who reported usually having irregular or very irregular periods were more likely to develop heart disease i.e. at an increased risk of 25% and 67%, respectively.
Many women with irregular periods have a condition called polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), marked by irregular periods and excessive levels of male hormones. PCOS is a relatively common condition, affecting some of the women of reproductive age. While some women exhibit the signs of excess male hormones, such as extra hair growth or acne, some do not. Women with PCOS also tend to be resistant to the effects of the hormone insulin. People who are insulin resistant have a predisposition to developing certain metabolic disorders, such as diabetes, cholesterol problems and high blood pressure, all of which can increase the risk of cardiovascular disease. Rather, irregular menstrual cycles may be a marker for other metabolic abnormalities, which may predispose to an increased risk of heart disease. However, the results of the study should not alarm women who have irregular menstrual cycles.
Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism May 2002, Vol. 87(5)
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