This may raise your heart failure risk
Do you know the factors that increase your heart failure risk? While many people think cardiovascular disease is a “male” problem, it is actually the leading cause of death in both genders. And new research found a link between a certain factor of a woman’s health history and an increased risk of the disease.
The research, published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, examined women’s reproductive history. They found that women who had never given birth and those who had reached menopause at an earlier age had an increased risk for heart disease.
The study looked at more than 28,000 postmenopausal women who did not have cardiovascular disease and followed them for over 13 years. During that time, over five percent of those studied had heart failure. They examined a number of factors which may have affected their risk of heart failure, including the total number of births, the mom’s age of her first pregnancy and the length between her first period and the onset of menopause.
In the end, they found a connection between a short reproductive period (the length of time between first period and menopause) and an increased risk for cardiovascular disease.
“Our finding that a shorter total reproductive duration was associated with a modestly increased risk of heart failure might be due to the increased coronary heart disease risk that accompanies early menopause,” said Dr. Nisha I. Parikh, senior author of the study.
The researchers also found that women who had never given birth had a higher risk of one type of heart failure.
“The main finding of the study, that postmenopausal woman with a shorter total reproductive duration had a high risk of heart failure, is in-line with previous studies and expert consensus that endogenous estrogen has a cardio protective effect,” says Dr. Barbara Parilla, medical director of maternal-fetal medicine at Advocate Lutheran General Hospital and Advocate Children’s Hospital in Park Ridge, Ill. “However, the finding of nulliparity or no pregnancies being associated with a higher risk for heart failure is new.”
But Dr. Parilla warns not to read too much into this finding, as more research is needed to support the authors’ conclusions.
“The number of women who were studied and had not been pregnant was only 182, and the association was only significant in age-adjusted models, not after multivariable adjustment,” she explains. “We need to be cautious about over-interpreting these results because not giving birth by itself may not be the cause of the increased risk, but rather, other factors that weren’t captured in this study design.”
When dealing with such a small sample size, it also is possible it was simply due to chance, she adds.
“Nevertheless, it’s exciting cardiovascular disease in women is finally getting the attention it deserves,” notes Dr. Parilla.
About the Author
Jacqueline Hughes is a former manager, media relations at Advocate Aurora Health. Previously, she was the public affairs and marketing manager at Advocate Lutheran General Hospital in Park Ridge, IL. She earned her BA in psychology at Stanford University in Palo Alto, California. Jackie has 10 plus years experience working in television and media and most recently worked at NBC 5 in Chicago. In her free time, she enjoys swimming, going to the movies and spending time with her family.