TUESDAY, June 12, 2012 (HealthDay News) --Early menopause may be associated with an increased risk of brain aneurysm, new research suggests.
The study by researchers from Rush University Medical Center in Chicago included 76 postmenopausal women who had a brain aneurysm, or an abnormal bulging of an artery in the brain. Aneurysms are serious. If the bulge leaks or ruptures, it can lead to stroke or death.
About 26 percent of the women who had an aneurysm experienced menopause by age 40, compared with about 19 percent in a comparison group of women who didn't have an aneurysm.
Every four-year increase in the age at which a woman went through menopause was associated with a 21 percent decreased risk of aneurysm.
The study was published online June 11 in the Journal of NeuroInterventional Surgery.
While the study found an association between early menopause and brain aneurysm, it did not prove that early menopause causes the condition. In addition, the study was retrospective, meaning that it started with women who had an aneurysm and looked back for factors that may have influenced risk.
In the study, researchers asked women about their medical history, including whether they had high blood pressure, diabetes, an underactive thyroid or high cholesterol, which can increase the risk of stroke.
The women were also asked about their reproductive history, including how many pregnancies they had and their age when their periods began, to determine how much estrogen they were exposed to during their lifetime.
The study found the average age women started menopause was similar for both groups.
But going through menopause later in life and hormone replacement therapy were both associated with a decreased risk for aneurysm.
Smoking did not appear to affect aneurysm risk, while alcohol consumption upped risk slightly.
Researchers said lower levels of estrogen that are associated with early menopause may explain the added risk of aneurysm.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Servives provides more information on early menopause.