One in 20 women hit by early menopause

More than one in 20 women go through an early menopause before the age of 40 for no medical reason

Doctors admit to being baffled by the rising number of women under 40 going through early menopause for no known medical reason.

More than one in 20 women stop having their periods at an early age which puts them at greater risk of heart attack, stroke and bone disease in later life, warn researchers.

‘Not only is there a greater risk of osteoporosis, there is a higher risk of subsequent cardiovascular disease,’ says Dr Rumana Islam, who presented her findings to the European Society for Human Reproduction and Embryology.

The average age of the menopause for a woman in the UK is 51 years, when a woman’s natural supply of oestrogen depletes and the ovaries run out of eggs.

The study, carried out at Imperial College London, found that smokers were most at risk of early menopause, with women from the lowest social class almost three times as likely to experience menopause before the age of 40.

Researchers looked at the records of nearly 5,000 women, all of whom were born in Britain in a single week in 1958.

At age 50, they asked them about the date and cause of their menopause and their quality of life.

A total of 7.4 per cent of women were left infertile before the age of 40 – considerably higher than estimates dating back to the eighties of 1 per cent.

Almost one-fifth had had surgical removal of the ovaries, or their ovaries had stopped functioning after chemotherapy treatment.

But, most shockingly of all, nearly 6 per cent had ‘unexplained’ early menopause.

Those women who stopped having their periods at an early age were more than twice as likely to say they had a poor quality of life affecting vitality, physical function, mental health, and general health perceptions.

Dr Islam says: ‘Primary care doctors need to ask women about the menopause and advise them on what steps to take to protect their health.’

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