Study Links Diabetes to Early & Late Menopause

     (CN) — Women who enter menopause earlier and later in life face an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes, according to a study of nearly 125,000 women.
     Data for the study came from women enrolled in the National Institutes of Health’s Women’s Health Initiative, which aims to prevent postmenopausal women from developing type 2 diabetes.
     The findings show that women who begin menopause after age 55 have a 12 percent increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes, while women who have their final periods before age 45 face a 25 percent increased risk of contracting the disease. The study was published Wednesday in the journal Menopause.
     “These findings have important implications given the high prevalence of type 2 diabetes in postmenopausal women. Among adults in the United States, the estimated overall prevalence of diabetes ranges from 5.8 percent to 12.9 percent,” the study says. “Therefore, the increase risk associated with reproductive characteristics notes in this study could have significant clinical impact.”
     While it is unclear how age correlates to postmenopausal women developing the disease, the authors theorize that it may be influenced by declining estrogen levels.
     As estrogen levels drop for woman entering menopause her appetite increases, fat accumulates and her metabolism slows.
     Based on the physiological challenges that decreased estrogen levels present, the study’s lead author Erin LeBlanc explained that postmenopausal women must remain vigilant of lifestyle changes that could further increase their risk of contracting type 2 diabetes.
     “Our study suggests the optimal window for menopause and diabetes risk is between the ages of 46 and 55,” LeBlanc said. “Women who start menopause before or after that window should be aware that they are at higher risk, and should be especially vigilant about reducing obesity, eating a healthy diet and exercising.”
     Besides declining estrogen levels, the study also discovered an association between the length of a woman’s lifetime reproductive cycle — the time between a woman’s first period and menopause — and her risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Women with a shorter lifetime reproductive cycle are 37 percent more likely to develop diabetes than women who have reproductive cycles lasting 36 to 40 years.
     Women ages 50 to 79 were recruited between 1993 and 19998 for the Women’s Health Initiative. The program followed up with the women for about 12 years at 40 clinical sites.
     The study participants completed extensive health questionnaires,
     In another study, also published Wednesday in the journal Menopause, researchers found that women who experience menopause later in life may be more likely to live into their 90s.
     “Our study found that women who started menstruation at age 12 or older, experienced menopause, either naturally or surgically, at age 50 or older and had more than 40 reproductive years had increased odds of living to 90 years old,” University of California, San Diego postdoctoral fellow Aladdin Shadyab told Fox 5 San Diego.
     The research was released by the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine.
     The study followed about 16,000 postmenopausal women of various racial and ethnic backgrounds that participated in the Women’s Health Initiative for 21 years.
     Of the women followed, 55 percent lived to age 90.
     “Our team found that women who started menstruation at a later age were less likely to have certain health issues like coronary heart disease, and those who experienced menopause later in life were more likely to be in excellent health overall — which may be a possible explanation for our findings,” Shadyab said.
     The study also found that women who experienced menopause later in life were less likely to smoke or have a history of diabetes.
     “This study is just the beginning of looking at factors that can predict a woman’s likelihood of surviving to advanced age,” Shadyab said. “Using my grandfather as inspiration, I am excited to take these results and continue to contribute to the science behind longevity.”

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