According To A New Study, Women With Irregular Periods Are More Prone To Heart Disease And Diabetes

Tata Health

Many experts talk about how the links between menstrual disorders and metabolic health are often overlooked during their studies. In fact, they believe that the Irregular periods may be predictive of heart disease and type 2 diabetes in the future. This statement was made based on the findings made in a new research.

An Australian study focused on this issue and the details of which have been published last December 16 in Clinical Endocrinology. The researchers found that women who reported irregular periods were 20 percent more likely to develop cardiovascular disease (CVD) and 17 percent more likely to develop type 2 diabetes. They came to this conclusion when they compared the test subjects women who experience regular menstrual cycles.

The findings made highlighted the importance of screening for health problems such as diabetes and heart disease. This is currently what doctors recommend in the most common conditions linked to irregular menstrual cycles, particularly in women in their forties. These problems also including polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) and early menopause. This was according to the authors of the study.

The recent Australian study confirmed the findings made from earlier research. They found that those who experience irregular periods in their reproductive years have bigger risks of developing heart disease and diabetes during their later years in life.

Rachel Urrutia, MD, assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the UNC School of Medicine in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, was not involved in the research, but she confirmed, “Although this is not a new finding per se, it reinforces findings from other places like the Nurses’ Health study in the U.S.” Those findings that were published in The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, discovered a much bigger risk of CVD in women. These females reported irregular periods and the researchers compared them with those who have normal menstrual cycles.


Research Assessed Risks Involved Over a 20-Year Timeline

What the researchers did was collect and analyze data from the women born between the years 1946 and 1951. They also took part in the Australian Longitudinal Study on Women’s Health 20-year follow up period. A total of 13,543 women completed data on menstrual regularity, with 12,135 women (89.6 percent) who communicated their regular cycles and 1,408 (10.4 percent) who communicated their irregular menstrual cycles.

After the researchers studied and analyzed the data with the use of Cox regression models, they found an increased risk for both CVD and type 2 diabetes. This led them to the conclusion that menstrual cycles “appear to be an early indicator for heart disease and diabetes.” With the help of the Cox regression method, scientists can look into certain variables (such as irregular periods) over a period of time. This would help them estimate the risk of a certain event happening. For this study, it helped them predict the risk of heart disease or type 2 diabetes.


Does Suffering from Irregular Menstrual Cycle Lead to the Greater Risk of CVD and Diabetes?

The study had not been not designed to see if the irregular cycles were actually behind the increased risks, said Urrutia. “However, most experts think that underlying health problems that cause irregular periods also cause a higher chance of cardiovascular disease and other metabolic diseases,” she explained.

Although this study doesn’t take into account the specific diagnoses that may be causing the irregular periods, polycystic ovaries are oftentimes the culprit behind irregular periods, Urrutia also shared. PCOS affects about 1 in 10 women of childbearing age. This was according to the findings made by the Office on Women’s Health.

The irregular period is caused by an imbalance of reproductive hormones. This then results to problems taking place in the ovaries. In women whose ovaries function normally, the ovaries make the egg that’s released each cycle during the ovulation process. Whereas women who suffer from PCOS, the egg may not develop according to norm, or it may not even be released as normally expected. It is also important to note that PCOS is connected to other health issues including diabetes, high blood pressure, high LDL (bad) cholesterol and low HDL (good) cholesterol, sleep apnea, anxiety, and depression. This was according to OASH.


Connection between Hormone Therapy and Lowered Risk for Diabetes

One interesting finding that the study made was that women with irregular cycles who used hormone replacement therapy lowered their risk of diabetes. They found that these women were in a much better place than those who had not. According to Urrutia, “We need more research to understand if there are specific groups who can actually benefit from hormone replacement therapy because we know that certain groups, such as older women, can actually have a higher risk of cardiovascular disease.”

Like most research conducted, this came with a few limitations as well. Urrutia said, “The users were asked about ‘irregular periods’ — yes or no. We know that people who answer ‘yes’ to this question may be referring to very different things. For example, heavy monthly periods may be called irregular and those with periods every 45 days may call this regular.” The authors also weren’t able to account for specific diagnoses, such as polycystic ovaries versus thyroid disease, Urrutia believed.


Advice for Those With Irregular Menstrual Cycles According to

There are recommendations made by doctors for females who have been diagnosed with polycystic ovaries or other conditions that may lead to irregular menstrual cycles. Urrutia elaborates on the following:

  • These women need to closely work with their primary care provider in order to map out and follow a plan that will help lower their long-term cardiovascular disease and diabetes risk. This oftentimes involves exercise, high quality diet, stress management, weight loss when and as applicable, and medications like metformin and statins.
  • These women need to go to their doctors to get regular screenings for cardiovascular disease and diabetes. That’s because those who experience irregular periods typically transition into menopause at a much earlier time.