Researchers confirm link between early menopause and changes in cells that increase risk for heart disease

A DNA sequence is shown.

A study in Circulation finds premature menopause, defined as menopause before age 40, is associated with changes in cells that increase risk for coronary heart disease.

The changes, called clonal hematopoiesis of indeterminate potential (CHIP), are also associated with mutations in leukemia-associated genes. The cell changes were only significant among women who had premature menopause naturally (1% of the population) as opposed to experiencing menopause after surgical interventions, like ovary removal. The researchers shared theories that may explain the relationship between early menopause and CHIP, but further research is necessary to investigate the underlying causes. Future research will also help evaluate the effectiveness of early detection and personalized treatments for CHIP-related heart disease.

The study was supported by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute’s Trans-Omics for Precision Medicine (TOPMed) program, which uses genetic and biological research, coupled with environmental and behavioral factors, from thousands of people to study processes and pathways that lead to heart, lung, blood, and sleep disorders.