The surprising reason you may be at an increased risk of early menopause

The surprising reason you may be at an increased risk of early menopause

Being underweight in your early 20s and 30s may be dangerous to your reproductive health – and beyond.

According to a recent study published in Human Reproduction, underweight young women are 30 percent more likely to experience early menopause than normal-weight women.

Nearly 80,000 women between the ages of 25 and 42 participated in the study. The researchers determined early menopause to be before the age of 45, and they defined underweight as “a body mass index (BMI) below 18.5. BMI is a measure of weight in relation to height, and figures between 18.5 and 24.9 are considered ‘normal.'”

Women who undergo early menopause are at an increased risk of a variety of health problems, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine. Among them –  overall mortality, neurological diseases and psychiatric diseases.

Dr. Tiffany Wilson, OB/GYN with Advocate Medical Group, says that “Women who enter early menopause should also be mindful of their increased osteoporosis and heart disease risk.”

Most study participants did not undergo early menopause, but the risk in underweight women was certainly higher. Researchers say malnutrition can lead to ovarian failure and menopause, and pointed to “weight cycling”, or losing at least 20 pounds 3+ times in early adulthood, as part of the problem.

While researchers assert the new findings do not directly link being underweight with early menopause, they do insist more research needs to be done in the field, as there are confirmed connections to a woman’s weight and her reproductive health.

Dr. Wilson says it is well known that a woman’s weight can have effects on her menstrual cycle.

“Specifically, as it relates to women who are underweight, they are at increased risk for menstrual disorders such as amenorrhea (the absence of menstruation, or missing periods) and possibly early menopause because of nutritional deficiencies,” she says. “Additionally, menstrual disorders related to being underweight can also affect fertility.”

She recommends women focus on balanced diets and being physically active to maintain or achieve their ideal body weight and reduce menstrual disorders.

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About the Author

Holly Brenza
Holly Brenza

Holly Brenza, health enews contributor, is a public affairs coordinator at Advocate Health Care in Downers Grove. She is a graduate of the University of Illinois at Chicago. In her free time, Holly enjoys reading, watching the White Sox and Blackhawks and playing with her cats.

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