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Later-onset menarche, menopause associated with longevity

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July 28, 2016

Women with later-onset menarche, later natural or surgical menopause and a longer reproductive lifespan are more likely to live to age 90 years vs. women with early-onset menarche, early menopause or a shorter reproductive lifespan, according to findings published in Menopause.

“Our findings suggest that women who began menstruating at age 12 or older, women experiencing menopause at age 50 or older, and women with more than 40 reproductive years (defined as the difference between age at first menstruation and age at menopause) were more likely to live to age 90,” Aladdin H. Shadyab, PhD, MS, MPH, CPH, postdoctoral fellow in rheumatology and aging at University of California, San Diego School of Medicine, told Endocrine Today. “Future studies are needed to examine how lifestyle, genetics and environmental factors explain the link between reproductive lifespan and longevity.”

Aladdin Shadyab

Aladdin H. Shadyab

In a prospective study, Shadyab and colleagues analyzed data from 16,251 postmenopausal women with complete information on ages of menarche and menopause participating in the Women’s Health Initiative, followed between 1993 and 2014 (mean age at baseline, 75 years). Researchers classified women in the cohort as having survived or died before age 90 years, and used logistic regression models to evaluate the associations between ages at menarche and menopause (natural or surgical) and reproductive lifespan with longevity after adjustment for demographic, lifestyle and reproductive factors.

Within the cohort, 8,892 (55%) survived to age 90 years; average age at menarche was 12.8 years; average age at menopause was 49 years; women had a mean 36.1 reproductive years, which correlated with age at menopause (r = 0.98; P < .001). Average age of death in the cohort was 83.7 years. Researchers found that age of menarche modestly increased for longevity (adjusted OR = 1.09; 95% CI, 1-1.19). Compared with women reaching natural or surgical menopause at age 40 years, there was a linear trend toward increased longevity for later age at natural or surgical menopause (P for trend = .01), with adjusted ORs of 1.19 for those reaching menopause from age 50 to 54 years (95% CI, 1.04-1.36) and 1.18 for women reaching menopause at age 55 years or older (95% CI, 1.02-1.36).

When separating out natural menopause, it remained associated with increased longevity (P for trend = .02), as did a longer reproductive lifespan (P for trend = .008).

When compared with women who had a 33-year reproductive lifespan, women with a reproductive lifespan of at least 40 years were more likely to reach age 90 years (OR = 1.12; 95% CI, 1.02-1.24), followed by women with a reproductive lifespan of 38 to 40 years (OR = 1.17; 95% CI, 1.06-1.29) and those with a reproductive lifespan of 33 to 37 years (OR = 1.09; 95% CI, 0.99-1.2).

Shadyab noted that women with later-onset menarche were less likely to have coronary heart disease, and those who experienced menopause at a later age were more likely to be healthy overall, which may help explain the findings. – by Regina Schaffer

For more information:

Aladdin H. Shadyab, PhD , MS , MPH , CPH, can be reached at University of California, San Diego School of Medicine, division of epidemiology, family medicine and public health, 9500 Gilman Drive, #0857, La Jolla, CA 92093; email: ahshadya@ucsd.edu.

Disclosure: The researchers report no relevant financial disclosures.

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