June 15, 2013
Early Puberty May Raise Heart Disease Risk In Women

Much of the focus on heart disease studies is on men, but heart disease strikes women as well.

Since women develop heart disease later than men, some of the same indicators are useful but they are not enough an now researchers have another marker to help them predict which women suffer a higher risk of heart disease. Early menstruation and puberty have now been linked to women likely to develop heart disease.

MedicineNet explains that the full report will be published in January's Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism. Early menstruation is also linked to obesity and body fat distribution among women.

Women's hearts are shielded by the hormone estrogen, until menopause. As a result, women develop heart disease nearly 10 years later than their male counterparts. Time notes that the new report confirms previous studies which suggested that menstruating before age 12 may contribute to a 23 percent greater risk of developing heart disease.

One thing that isn't clear is what is the cause. Early menstruation has recently been tied to childhood obesity, and women who menstruate early are more likely to be obese later in life. As such, researchers admit that it is difficult to tell whether the later in life heart disease is linked to childhood obesity, or to reproductive factors or early puberty.

"Ultimately, the important question is whether female reproductive risk factors can be used to target lifestyle interventions in high-risk women to prevent the metabolic consequences of obesity and cardiovascular disease," lead author Dr. Subbulaxmi Trikudanathan, of Harvard Medical School said.

One possible takeaway from the study is that doctors could begin discussing healthier lifestyle options with young patients who begin puberty early and show signs of obesity.