Can early menopause affect my heart?
My doctor told me I have premature ovarian insufficiency. I have since heard that this could affect my heart. Is this true?
Dr Louise Newson says:
The term premature ovarian insufficiency (POI) is sometimes used interchangeably with early menopause. It can also be called premature ovarian failure. It means you have experienced the menopause before the age of 40.
The most obvious effects are early symptoms of the menopause, including your periods stopping, and reduced fertility. But women who experience POI are also known to be at higher risk of coronary heart disease. This is because oestrogen has a protective effect on your body, including your blood vessels. When you have POI, your oestrogen levels drop. POI is also linked to lower levels of bone density and higher rates of osteoporosis.
Oestrogen has a protective effect on your body, including your blood vessels. When you have POI, your oestrogen levels drop
POI can happen on its own, or as a result of something else, such as cancer treatment. The most common way of diagnosing POI is with a blood test to measure the level of follicle stimulating hormone (FSH). This level is usually raised as your body produces high levels in response to your low oestrogen levels. Other blood tests and a bone density test are also common.
Taking hormones (HRT or the contraceptive pill) up to the natural age of menopause (51 years on average) replaces the hormones that your body would otherwise be producing, and this reduces the risk of heart disease. Taking HRT before the natural age of the menopause is very safe, and helps to protect your bones as well as reducing risk of future heart disease. The benefits outweigh the risks.
Meet the expert
Dr Louise Newson is a GP with a special interest in menopause.