Although the association between menopause and cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk has been studied extensively, the simultaneous role of chronological aging herein remains underexposed. This study aims to disentangle the relationships of menopausal status and chronological aging with CVD risk factors in the largest study population to date.
In this cross-sectional study, CVD risk factors were compared between women with a different menopausal status within the same yearly age strata. The study population comprised female participants of the baseline visit of the population-based LifeLines Cohort Study. A total of 63,466 women, aged between 18 and 65 years, was included. Of them, 39,379 women were considered to be premenopausal, 8669 were perimenopausal, 14,514 were naturally postmenopausal, and 904 were surgically postmenopausal.
Compared to postmenopausal women aged 45 years, average total cholesterol (TC) and low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-c) were 0.5 and 0.4 mmol/L higher, respectively, in postmenopausal women aged 50. Systolic and diastolic blood pressure levels were 4 and 1 mmHg higher, respectively. At all ages between 46 and 55 years, and after adjustment for confounders, naturally postmenopausal women had 0.2 to 0.4 mmol/L higher TC and 0.1 to 0.3 mmol/L higher LDL-c levels compared to premenopausal women in the same age range. Systolic blood pressure levels were up to 4 mmHg lower in naturally post- compared to premenopausal women at all ages between 29 and 52 years. Body mass index levels were up to 3.2 kg/m2 higher in women with surgical menopause compared to all other women between the ages 32 and 52 years. All aforementioned results were statistically significant.
Chronological age and menopausal status are both independently associated with CVD risk factors. Based on the comparatively smaller observed differences associated with menopausal status than with chronological aging, the significance of a more unfavorable lipid profile in a later reproductive stage may be less obvious than previously thought.
Cardiovascular risk; Female aging; Menopause