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Women who reach menopause before the age of 50 have an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, research shows.

The University of Queensland (UQ) study found early menopause put women at greater risk of suffering a non-fatal cardiac event such as myocardial infarction, angina or stroke.

“Women under 40 who experience premature menopause were nearly twice as likely to have a non-fatal cardiovascular event before the age of 60,” senior author at UQ’s School of Public Health Professor Gita Mishra said.

“This is compared to women who reach menopause between the ages of 50 or 51, during what is considered the standard developmental period.

“Women who were aged between 40 and 44 in menopause were 40% more likely to suffer from a cardiovascular condition.”

The UQ research analysed more than 300,000 women in 15 studies worldwide using the collaborative databank InterLACE.

Previous studies have found an association between early menopause and fatal cardiovascular events.

The relationship with non-fatal cardiovascular events had been unclear until now, Professor Mishra said.

“Smoking, being overweight or obese, and having lower education levels can also strengthen the link between early menopause and a woman’s risk of cardiovascular disease.”

UQ study lead in UQ’s School of Public Health Phd scholar Dongshan Zhu said the findings had important clinical and public health implications.

“Identifying women with early menopause offers a window of opportunity for their doctors to work with them to monitor and actively manage cardiovascular disease risk factors.

“Early clinical diagnosis will help to improve overall cardiovascular health in their postmenopausal years.”

The research was published in journal The Lancet Public Health.