Scientists have discovered a link between early menopause and an increased risk of heart disease and stroke.
Researchers in America analysed more than 2,500 women aged between 51, the average age for menopause, and 84. More than a quarter reported having an early menopause, defined as happening before the age of 46.
Menopause can occur earlier in some women either naturally or due to surgical removal of the ovaries. Most of the candidates who had an early menopause had done so naturally.
The research team studied the women for signs of heart attack, non-fatal cardiac arrest, stroke or chest pain - none of which occurred in the women before the age of 55.
However, after that time, researchers found that those who had an early menopause had double the risk of suffering a heart attack than women who had not had an early menopause.
Study leader Dr Melissa Wellons, from the University of Alabama in Birmingham, US, said it is important that women are aware of the risks.
She said: “They can then work harder to improve their modifiable risk factors, such as high cholesterol and blood pressure, by exercising and following a healthy diet.”
The research was presented at The Endocrine Society meeting in San Diego, California.