Menopause before the age of 45 is considered to be “early” and for a lot of women, it ca be a cause for concern. Many women are delaying starting families until later in life, typically because the spend a part of their lives making an effort to build their careers. While for many women, the prospect of no longer being able to fall pregnant and have a baby at the age of 45 is not necessarily a troubling thought, for some women it is a blow to their dreams of having the family that they ant.
The good news is that starting menopause early can actually be positive for a woman’s health.
According to a new study, women who go through early menopause may have a benefit: a more than 50% lower risk they will experience severe rheumatoid arthritis. At the recent European League Against Rheumatism’s annual meeting, investigators announced that only 16% of women in their study having early menopause developed severe arthritis compared with 35% who had menopause starting at 46 years or later.
What the study showed
The study group consisted of 127 women who had been part of the Malmo Diet and Cancer Study, who had developed rheumatoid arthritis, and for whom menopausal status was known. However, complete information on arthritis severity was known for only 85 women.
Here are the study specifics:
- 25 of the 127 women reported early menopause (by age 45) and the remaining 102 had normal or late menopause
- Average age at diagnosis of rheumatoid arthritis was 63.4 years
- Of the 19 women with early menopause, rheumatoid arthritis was severe in 16% and mild to moderate in 84%
- Of the 66 women with normal to late menopause, rheumatoid arthritis was severe in 35% and mild to moderate in 66%
- The researchers took into account the previous use of oral contraceptives, history of breastfeeding (both of which have an impact on hormones), smoking, and educational level, and none were associated with the severity of arthritis
Rheumatoid arthritis in women
Rheumatoid arthritis affects about 2.1 million people in the United States, and it is two to three times more common in women than in men. In fact, a Mayo Clinic study in Arthritis and Rheumatism in 2010 reported that after declining for 40 years, the prevalence of rheumatoid arthritis in women has increased and declined in men.
The exact cause of rheumatoid arthritis is not known, but experts believe it is a combination of genetic, environmental (e.g., vitamin D deficiency, smoking), and hormonal factors.