The average age of menopause in this country is 51, which means that most women stop having periods (the definition of menopause) some time between age 49 and age 53. But what happens if you stop earlier?
That's what Swedish researchers wanted to find out when they followed the medical histories of nearly 400 women who born in 1929. The researchers found out that the women who experienced early menopause — defined as menopause before age 47 - significantly increased their risk of osteoporosis, fractures and early death over the next 30 years.
This isn't the first study to suggest risks associated with earlier menopause. Other researchers have highlighted the connection to the increased risk of osteoporosis, which is a disorder characterized by thinning bones.
But if early menopause is indeed a risk factor for early death, then the obvious next step is to figure out how to delay menopause. That's still not really possible in the vast majority of cases.
The age at which a woman enters menopause is determined by a number of factors, including genetics, lifestyle and medical history. For example, smokers are more likely to experience early menopause than non-smokers. Other women enter menopause early because of illness or the surgical removal of their ovaries.
If you think you are experiencing early menopause, talk to your doctor about your options.