THURSDAY, March 14, 2019 (HealthDay News) -- Older women who started menstruating at an early age have an increased risk of high blood pressure, new research suggests.
For the study, scientists analyzed data from nearly 7,900 women in China. The investigators found that early-onset menstruation was linked to a much higher chance for high blood pressure in late adulthood, even after taking into account factors such as social and economic background, and lifestyle habits.
This link may be due to the rate at which body systems develop, according to study author Luqi Shen, a doctoral student in public health at the University of Georgia in Athens.
The early or late development of one body system can have an impact on other body systems, Shen said. But the study did not prove cause and effect.
The average girl in the United States gets her first period at age 12. When women start menstruating at an early age ("early menarche"), their cardiovascular system may not be fully developed yet, so this might put them at higher risk for worse outcomes later in life, such as high blood pressure ("hypertension"), Shen explained in a university news release.
"So, the association of early menarche with hypertension is as expected in this population," Shen added.
The study was recently published in the journal Hypertension Research.
The report adds to the understanding of how a woman's age at menarche and menopause may affect her risk of chronic disease later in life, according to the researchers.
The investigators did not find a strong association between the age at menopause and blood pressure, once they controlled for other lifestyle factors. Shen said that any link they discovered at this stage of life was entirely explained by body mass index -- a measure of body fat based on weight and height.
"This suggests that body weight management around menopausal stage is critical in blood pressure management for women at menopausal age, and we believe this finding is not specific to Chinese women and may be applicable to women in all countries," she said.
While the study adds to a growing body of research on how early life influences may affect long-term health, Shen noted that healthy living and access to good health care also have an impact.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention outlines how to prevent high blood pressure.