The research-verdict is out that early menopause appears to double heart attack risk and increase risk of cardiovascular disease.

But does this take into consideration variables of exercise, diet, body weight and smoking history?

The research points out that cardiovascular disease, for which early menopause is a potential risk factor, is the No. 1 killer of American women.

But working hard to improve modifiable risk factors will go a long way at helping to prevent cardiovascular disease. Modifiable risk factors include:

  • Dietary habits
  • Exercise habits
  • Smoking
  • Stress management
  • Sleep habits
  • Blood pressure
  • Cholesterol profile

The study had over 2,500 participants of varying races.

The medical definition of early menopause is having completed the process (either naturally or surgically) before a woman’s 46th birthday.

Completion of menopause is when a woman goes 12 months without menstruating, and if this happens before she turns 46, it is “early.”

Surprising News

The researchers had adjusted for modifiable risk factors.

But despite that, early menopause was determined to be an independent risk factor for a higher risk of heart attacks and other cardiac events.

The reason why this is has not been established, as this was an observational study.

Two questions should hang before the savvy health-conscious woman:

Does early menopause increase heart attack risk?

Or, does cardiovascular disease bring on early menopause?

Says Nanette Santoro, MD, Professor and E. Stewart Chair of Obstetrics and Gynecology, University of Colorado at Denver School of Medicine:

“CVD burden may well have a connection to earlier menopause, and there are a few cohort studies that have shown that. This study (Wellons) shows that in a sizable, multi-ethnic cohort – – which is meaningful.”

Question to Ask

Were the early menopause women actually divided into several groups such as 1) never smoked, 2) never were overweight, 3) long history of intense exercise, 4) long history of clean all-natural eating habits?

What would make an intriguing study?

A study in which the heart attack rates of obese early menopause women are compared to the heart attack risks of never-overweight early menopause women, and so on; it’s nearly endless as far as which groups to compose for comparisons:

1) lean, never-smoked, vegetarians

2) obese but who’ve always exercised

3) obese who never smoked

4) obese heavy smokers

5) exercise enthusiasts with low body fa

6) exercise enthusiasts with high body fat

7) exercise enthusiasts with poor stress management and frequent junk food binges.

What to Do in the Meantime

If you’re obese or even moderately overweight, don’t wait till menopause, retirement or some other distant event to start making lifestyle changes to reduce excess body fat.

Two Major Weapons Against Obesity

  • Compound strength training
  • High intensity interval training

The mistake that many big women make is that of using tiny weights. I’ve seen this time and time again — and it just doesn’t beget the results they’re looking for.

Trade those tiny dumbbells for a heavy barbell for optimal fat loss. Shutterstock/Lisa F. Young

The general rule is that for optimal weight loss, you must use an amount of weight that makes it absolutely impossible to complete more than 12 repetitions.

However, you should be able to perform at least eight reps.

A compound exercise is one in which more than one joint is used.

Preparing to squat, which works the glutes, thighs, hamstrings and core. Shutterstock/Reshetnikov_art

The best compound exercises are the squat, deadlift, leg press, any barbell pressing motion, and pulling movements such as the seated row.

If you’re already in the midst of menopause, or you sense that it’s around the corner, don’t let this stop you from embarking on a serious strength training program.

Not only does strength training benefit the heart, but even more so, high intensity interval training will boost heart health and significantly reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.

Go here for how to to high intensity interval training.

Dr. Santoro has been an active clinician and researcher in reproductive endocrinology beginning in 1986.
Lorra Garrick is a former personal trainer certified by the American Council on Exercise. At Bally Total Fitness she trained clients of all ages for fat loss, muscle building, fitness and improved health. 
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Top image: Shutterstock/Estrada Anton
Sources: sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/06/100621133948.htm;
endocrinetoday.com/view.aspx?rid=65730 obese fat thin heart attack