Starting your menstrual cycle at a young age, particularly before the age of 13, may increase the risk of developing type 2 diabetes and having a stroke later in life, according to research published in BMJ Nutrition Prevention & Health.
With diabetes and its complications becoming more common among younger adults and the decreasing age of first menstrual cycles worldwide, researchers sought to uncover a potential connection between these trends in younger women.
They analyzed data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) between 1999 and 2018, involving 17,377 women aged 20 to 65, who reported the age of their first menstrual cycle.
Out of the participants, 10% reported a diagnosis of type 2 diabetes, with 11.5% of them having some form of cardiovascular disease.
The study found that starting menstrual cycles before the age of 13 was associated with a higher risk of type 2 diabetes, even after considering factors like age, race, education, family history, smoking, physical activity, and weight (BMI).
The risk varied, with those starting at age ten or younger having a 32% greater risk, age 11 at 14%, and age 12 at 29%.
Among women with diabetes, an earlier age at the first menstrual cycle was linked to an increased risk of stroke, though not cardiovascular disease in general, after adjusting for influential factors.
Those who had their first period at age 10 or younger had more than double the risk of stroke before the age of 65 compared to those who started at age 14. The risk decreased with increasing age at the first menstrual cycle: 81% at age 11, 32% at age 12, and 15% at age 14.
The Possible Explanation
While this study is observational and doesn’t establish causal factors, researchers suggest that early age at the first menstrual cycle might indicate the cardiometabolic disease trajectory in women.
One possible explanation is that women who start menstruating early are exposed to estrogen for longer periods, and early menstruation has been linked to higher estrogen levels.
It’s worth noting that the associations between age at the first menstrual cycle and stroke complications remained significant even after accounting for weight, suggesting that adiposity (body fat) may also play a role.
This research highlights a potential link between starting menstrual cycles at a young age and the risk of developing type 2 diabetes and experiencing a stroke.
While it doesn’t prove causation, it provides valuable insights into the factors that may contribute to these health risks in women.
Understanding these associations can help healthcare professionals identify individuals at higher risk and develop strategies for early intervention and prevention.
Further research is needed to confirm these findings and explore the underlying mechanisms.
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The research findings can be found in BMJ Nutrition Prevention & Health.
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