Early periods tied to worse menopause symptoms

  • Early menstruation is associated with health problems later in life
  • Menstruation starting at 11 years of age was found to increase women's chances of hot flashes and night sweats during menopause
  • Being obese increased the likelihood of these symptoms

Women whose periods started at an early age are more likely to have hot flashes and night sweats during menopause, researchers say.

"The risk of the women who menstruated early experiencing both symptoms was greater than having either [hot flashes] or night sweats alone," study author Hsin-Fang Chung said in a news release from the University of Queensland in Australia. Chung is with its School of Public Health.

For the study, the researchers analysed data from more than 18 000 middle-aged women across the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia.

Compared to those who had their first period when they were 14 or older, those who started menstruating when they were 11 or younger were 50% more likely to have frequent hot flashes and night sweats at menopause, the researchers found.

Obesity a significant factor

Early menstruation previously has been linked to certain health problems later in life, including type 2 diabetes and heart disease, Chung noted.

The study was conducted as part of an international collaboration known as the Life Course Approach to Reproductive Health and Chronic Disease Events (InterLACE).

Obesity appeared to be a significant factor in the study findings, according to Gita Mishra, InterLACE project leader.

"Women who experienced early menstruation and were overweight or obese in midlife had a two times greater risk of frequent [hot flashes] and night sweats, compared with women who experienced their first period aged 14 years or older, and had normal weight," she said.

"These findings encourage women with early menstruation to engage in health promotion programmes, especially weight management in adulthood," Mishra concluded.

The study was published in BJOG: an International Journal of Obstetrics & Gynaecology.

Image credit: iStock

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