Problems with the menstrual cycle may raise a woman’s risk of cardiovascular disease

Two reproductive health conditions common in women are each associated with increasing cardiovascular disease risk.

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The primary cause of death for women is cardiovascular disease, which includes heart disease and vascular diseases, including high blood pressure. Nearly 45% of women 20 years and older have a cardiovascular disease, according to the American Heart Association‘s Heart Disease and Stroke Statistics-2023 Update.

Reducing the risk of heart disease in young women would be possible with improved disease prevention. Since menstruation-related factors are unique to the young female population, which is ignored by current risk prediction techniques that were designed with an older, predominately male population in mind, it is vital to examine them generally.

Two new studies that were presented at the American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions 2023 found that teenage females with polycystic ovary syndrome—a disorder linked to irregular menstrual cycles—had a higher risk of high blood pressure than did teens without the affliction. Particularly, polycystic ovarian syndrome and dysmenorrhea, two frequent reproductive health problems in women, are linked to an increased risk of cardiovascular disease.

The association between prevalent reproductive health issues in women and their risk of cardiovascular disease was investigated in two new studies conducted by different study teams. One study examines polycystic ovarian syndrome, an imbalance in reproductive hormones that affects around one in ten women of childbearing age and is characterized by irregular or skipped periods and ovarian cysts. The second research assesses dysmenorrhea or pain associated with menstruation, which is the most prevalent menstrual cycle issue among women.

The first study involved almost 170,000 U.S. girls ages 13 to 17 years. The risk of high blood pressure was 30% higher for girls with polycystic ovary syndrome compared with those without the condition. Up to 5% of U.S. children and adolescents have high blood pressure, and 18% have elevated blood pressure.

Data on medical records was taken from Kaiser Permanente Northern California between 2012 and 2018. Among the almost 170,000 teenage girls in the database, more than 1,140 had polycystic ovarian syndrome.

For each of the teenage girls, researchers noted the blood pressure, height, and weight taken at one initial well-child visit, along with any polycystic ovary syndrome diagnoses within a year of those visits. Approximately 66% of the females were of a healthy weight, 19% were overweight, and over 15% were obese. About three out of every four females in the study had normal blood pressure; 17.5% of them had high blood pressure, and 7.0% of them had hypertensive blood pressure.

Scientists mainly found that those with polycystic ovarian syndrome had a substantially greater prevalence of high blood pressure (18.6%) than those without the condition (6.9%). There was a 1.3-fold increased risk of hypertensive blood pressure readings greater than 130/80 mm Hg in those with polycystic ovarian syndrome.

In a different study, almost 55,000 women under 50 were included; around 30,000 of them had been diagnosed with dysmenorrhea, a condition marked by uncomfortable menstruation. Scientists examined heart disease diagnoses made before the age of fifty, including all heart disease subtypes such as angina (chest discomfort connected to the heart), heart attacks, heart attack complications, and chronic heart disease. To investigate the risk associated with dysmenorrhea separately from these other menstrual diseases, they also assessed women’s menstrual irregularities, such as irregular menstrual cycles, heavy menstrual bleeding, and other related conditions, as well as endometriosis.

Scientists looked through the electronic medical data of female patients treated at Mount Sinai, mainly from 2011 to 2023. On the other hand, health records for 18% of patients were from previous periods, with the earliest records dating from 1987.

According to the data, women with dysmenorrhea had twice the likelihood of women without the disorder of having an increased risk for ischemic heart disease, which includes angina, heart attacks, heart attack sequelae, and chronic or persistent ischemic heart disease.

Eugenia Alleva, M.D., M.S., a postdoctoral research fellow at the Windreich Department of Artificial Intelligence and Human Health and the Hasso Plattner Institute for Digital Health at Mount Sinai in New York City, said“Our findings suggest that dysmenorrhea is an important risk factor for heart disease in young females that could be used for refining cardiovascular risk in this population. These findings also add to the ongoing research efforts aimed at identifying and building tailored risk models for young women, ultimately enabling improved risk prediction and disease prevention.”

Reference:

  1. After Nov. 6, view Abstract 176 and Abstract 177 in the AHA Scientific Sessions 2023 Online Program Planner
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