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Periods before age 12 signal risk of heart disease, stroke

Girls who start periods before turning 12 are at greater risk of heart disease and stroke in later life, as are women who give birth at a young age, experience a miscarriage or stillbirth, or go through the menopause early, a study shows


A teenage girl holding a tampon. Picture: Alamy

Girls who start their periods before they turn 12 are at greater risk of developing heart disease and stroke in later life, a study of nearly 300,000 UK women shows.

Women who give birth at a young age, experience a miscarriage or stillbirth, or go through the menopause early are also more likely to develop cardiovascular disease when they get older, according to the study by the George Institute for Global Health at the University of Oxford.

Researchers drew on data from the UK Biobank, a large, population-based study of more than half a million men and women.

Early menopause

They found women who had started their periods before the age of 12 had a 10% greater risk of developing cardiovascular disease than those who had been 13 or older, while those who went through the menopause before the age of 47 had a 33% higher risk of developing heart disease and a 42% greater risk of stroke.

Each miscarriage was found to increase a woman’s risk of heart disease by 6%, while having a stillborn child was associated with a 22% higher risk of cardiovascular disease and a 44% higher risk of stroke.

Women who had undergone hysterectomies or had their ovaries removed were also found to be at a higher risk of heart disease and stroke.


Peters S & Woodward M (2018) Women’s reproductive factors and incident cardiovascular disease in the UK Biobank. Heart. doi:org/10.1136/heartjnl-2017-312289

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