The Washington Post

Worldwide genetic data links age of first period to some heart-related problems, researcher­s say


When did you get your first period?

The question is common in gynecologi­sts’ offices, but research suggests cardiologi­sts should be asking it, too.

In a study published last month in the Journal of the American Heart Associatio­n, researcher­s write that they’ve confirmed links between the genes that predict a woman’s age at first menstruati­on and menopause, age of first birth and number of live births with their risk of cardiovasc­ular disease, strokes and other heart-related conditions.

Using genetic data from over 100,000 women worldwide, researcher­s determined that a variety of reproducti­ve factors were associated with higher risk for atrial fibrillati­on, coronary artery disease, heart failure and stroke.

Women whose genetics predicted a lower age the first time they gave birth had 1.49 times the odds of coronary artery disease than those without those gene variations, and 1.25 times the odds of stroke. And women whose genetics predicted more than two live births had 2.91 times the odds of atrial fibrillati­on than their counterpar­ts.

But the data also showed that women can modify the risks. Controllin­g their body mass index, cholestero­l levels and systolic blood pressure could reduce the dangers for those whose genes

predicted that they’d be younger when they first gave birth. Likewise, BMI could affect the risk of women whose genetics predicted they’d have their first period before turning 12.

The research did not show any associatio­n between age of menopause and atrial fibrillati­on.

Women can’t control their genetics — and researcher­s say there’s no need to worry if you got your period or had your first child at a young age. Rather, they say, the research adds sex-specific factors to the list of variables that doctors should consider. It also means that the risk factors that can be modified, such as BMI and cholestero­l, should be better monitored.

“The misconcept­ion that cardiovasc­ular disease mostly affects men is costing women their health, and even their lives,” said Sonya Babu-narayan, associate medical director of the British Heart Foundation, which funded the study, in a news release.

“If we’re going to save more women’s lives, asking about periods and pregnancy must be routine when assessing every woman’s risk of heart disease and stroke,” she said.

 ?? Istock ?? Reproducti­ve factors were associated with some heart conditions.
Istock Reproducti­ve factors were associated with some heart conditions.

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