If You Experienced This Before 40, Your Stroke Risk Is Higher, New Study Says


Nearly 800,00 people in the U.S. have a stroke each year, per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). With statistics like that, it might seem as if experiencing this life-threatening event at some point in your life is inevitable, but knowing your risk factors can help you prevent a stroke from happening. Many common medical conditions increase your chances of having a stroke, like high blood pressure, high cholesterol, heart disease, and diabetes, but certain behaviors such as an unhealthy diet, physical inactivity, obesity, and even too much alcohol can raise your risk as well. Now, new research points to something that's harder to control: Having one experience before the age of 40 may raise your stroke risk, too. Read on to find out if your chances of having a stroke are already heightened.

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If you experience menopause before 40, your stroke risk is higher.

Going through menopause at an earlier age could have consequences down the line. A new study published June 3 in the American Heart Association (AHA) journal Stroke analyzed the risk of stroke for postmenopausal women. The researchers observed more than 16,200 postmenopausal women between the ages of 26 and 70 in the Netherlands for nearly 15 years. There were a total of 830 strokes observed. According to the study, women who experienced menopause before the age of 40 had a 1.5 times higher risk of ischemic stroke than women who underwent menopause when they were between 50 and 54 years old.

"It is of utmost important for all women to try and achieve optimal cardiovascular health before and after menopause, but it is even more important for women with early menopause," study co-author Yvonne van der Schouw, PhD, a professor of chronic disease epidemiology at Utrecht University in the Netherlands, said in a statement.

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Stroke risk is reduced each year menopause is delayed.

The researchers found that for women over the age of 50—which is near the average start age for menopause—their stroke risk lowered by 2 percent each year menopause was delayed. "Changes in endogenous hormones may explain the association between earlier age at menopause and increased stroke risk," the researchers explained. "An earlier menopause results in an early decline in estradiol and this might either have a direct adverse effect on the blood vessels or harmfully affect stroke risk factors that in turn, increase the risk of stroke."

Around 5 percent of women experience menopause before the age of 40.

Women are already more likely to experience stroke than men—according to the AHA, women have a 4 percent higher lifetime stroke risk than men. But early menopause may put women at even higher risk. The U.S. Office on Women's Health (OASH) reports that about 5 percent of women have early or premature menopause before the age of 40. Early menopause can be brought on by family history, smoking, chemotherapy, or pelvic radiation treatments for cancer, as well as certain health conditions like autoimmune disease, HIV, AIDS, missing chromosomes, or chronic fatigue syndrome.

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If you haven't had your period in months, you should discuss menopause with your doctor.

According to the study, women were considered postmenopausal when they reported not having experienced menstrual bleeding for at least 12 months. OASH says you should talk to your doctor if you think you may be reaching menopause, and your doctor can give you a blood test to measure estrogen and other hormones, as well as talk to you about menopause symptoms. According to the Mayo Clinic, other signs of menopause include vaginal dryness, hot flashes, chills, night sweats, sleep problems, mood changes, weight gain, slowed metabolism, thinning hair, dry skin, and loss of breast fullness.

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