We often think the age we got our periods is just a product of genetics and either luck or misfortune. Maybe you were an early bloomer and embarrassed because you were the first in your class to have to wear a maxi pad to gym class. Perhaps you didn’t start menstruating until you were well into high school and had to deal with that embarrassment. But the reality is that the age we got our periods has more to do with our future health than we think. A new study shows our risk of developing heart disease, stroke and high blood pressure is linked to the age we started our first menstrual cycles.
Researchers reportedly studied health data for more than a million women ages 50 to 64 in Great Britain and came up with the following conclusion: Those who had started their periods before age 10 or after age 17 were the most at risk for heart problems and high blood pressure later on in life.
Doctors expected to find this information to be true for girls who menstruated early because obese children often get their periods at younger ages, according to Dr. Dexter Canoy of the University of Oxford.
What was really surprising was that the 1 percent of women in the group who got their periods in their late teens also experienced a greater risk of heart disease.
Those who got their periods at age 13 — which comprised about 25 percent of the group — had the lowest risk of heart problems later in life.
There are a few things we should keep in mind: Although the risks were the same regardless of body size, socioeconomic status and whether the subject was a smoker or not, most of the women in the study were Caucasian and born between 1930 and 1950 in industrialized countries.
And another big question docs say they still have to explore: whether there are any other life factors that take place around middle age that could contribute to an increase in heart disease in women who got their periods at a significantly younger or older age than average.
And it isn’t all doom and gloom if you were an early or late bloomer. Researchers say knowing about these risks now means women can adjust their lifestyles, lose weight, exercise more and control their blood pressure through proper diet in order to ensure they stay healthy.