As I’ve mentioned before, the onset of menopause causes a woman’s body to change. We think of the ending of our period, but changes in hormonal balance can cause havoc as well. Two new studies have recently been published that focus on women who go through early menopause and potential health issues that may arise for them.
In a study published in the June 11 issue of Journal of NeuroInterventional Surgery, researchers from Rush University Medical Center in Chicago found that early menopause may be associated with increased risks of suffering a brain aneurysm.
First, let me provide some more background information on brain aneurysms. The U.S. National Library of Medicine’s PubMed Health defined a cerebral aneurism as "a weak area of a blood vessel that causes the blood vessel to bulge or balloon out." There are many types of aneurysms. For instance, one type does not offer any symptoms, but can be found through an MRI or CT scan. Others do cause symptoms. A cerebral aneurysm may start with leaking a small amount of blood, which may cause a severe headache, which could serve as a warning of a rupture days or weeks later. PubMed Health noted that exact symptoms depend on the location of the aneurysm, what area of the brain is getting pressured, and whether the aneurysm breaks open. Symptoms can include double vision, loss of vision, headaches, eye pain, neck pain or a stiff neck. The symptoms of a ruptured aneurysm - which is a medical emergency and needs to be treated immediately by a doctor - include a sudden and severe headache, confusion, lethargy, sleepiness, stupor, drooping eyelid, headaches with nausea or vomiting, muscle weakness, difficulty moving any part of the body, numbness, seizures, a speech impairment, a stiff neck, double vision or loss of vision.
MedlinePlus reported that the Rush University researchers studied the health history of a group of women. The group included 76 postmenopausal women who had suffered a brain aneurism. The participants were asked about their health history, including the number of pregnancies, onset of menstruation, high blood pressure, diabetes, thyroid condition, cholesterol, smoking and alcohol consumption. The researchers also calculated the amount of estrogen in the women’s bodies during their lifetime.
The researchers found that approximately 26 percent of the women who had had a brain aneurism had gone through menopause by the age of 40, as compared to 19 percent of women who did not have an aneurism. Furthermore, researchers found that each four-year period in the age of when a women went through menopause coincided with a 21-percent decreased risk of a brain aneurysm. Additionally, taking hormone replacement therapy was associated with a decreased risk for aneurysms. MedlinePlus cautioned that this study did not prove that early menopause led to aneurysms. Furthermore, the study was retrospective and, thus, looked back at factors that could have influenced this condition.
A second study reported by the International Federation of Gynecology and Obstetrics found that early menopause may be associated with a milder form of rheumatoid arthritis (RA). RA is defined by PubMed Health as "a long-term disease that leads to inflammation of the joints and surrounding tissues. It can also affect other organs." While this disease can occur at any age, it often strikes in middle age; furthermore, more women get RA than men.
In this second study, researchers examined the records of 134 patients with rheumatoid arthritis. Their analysis found that patients who were older than 45 years of age and who had a history of early menopause were 50 percent less likely to develop severe rheumatoid arthritis. Instead, these women were more likely to develop a milder form of the disease. "We already know that hormonal factors may influence the risk of RA, but this is the first study we know of that investigates the impact of menopausal age on the severity of RA," said Dr. Mitra Pikwer of the Skane University Hospital, who served as the study’s lead author.
Primary Sources for This Sharepost:
Dallas, M. E. (2012). Early menopause may raise risk for brain aneurysm. Medline Plus.
International Federation of Gynecology and Obstetrics. (2012). Early menopause linked to milder arthritis.
PubMed Health. (2010). Aneurysm in the brain.
PubMed Health. (2012). Rheumatoid arthritis.
Dorian Martin writes about various topics for HealthCentral, including Alzheimer’s disease, diet/exercise, menopause and lung cancer. Dorian is a health and caregiving advocate living in College Station, TX. She has a Ph.D. in educational human resource development. Dorian also founded I Start Wondering, which encourages people to embrace a life-long learning approach to aging. She teaches Sheng Zhen Gong, a form of Qigong. Follow Dorian on Twitter at @dorianmartin, Facebook or Instagram at @doriannmartin.