Many women dread reaching menopause because they feel it signals the start of old age. In fact, it's normal to reach this milestone anywhere from the mid-40s to the mid-50s. The average age in this country is 51, hardly the end of the line. (A woman has reached menopause when she goes 12 months without having a period.)
Women in their 50s may boast that they haven't yet reached menopause but that's not always a sign of health. In fact, reaching menopause on the earlier side could even be a good thing for your future, researchers say.
In a study published in the journal Menopause, Japanese researchers followed more than 3,100 premenopausal women for a decade. They found that women who spent a lot of time exercising and ate a heart-healthy diet appeared to reach menopause earlier than women who did not do those things.
That's a positive thing because women who experience menopause earlier have less exposure to estrogen, which fuels breast cancer.
But this study is hardly the last word on early menopause. Other research has shown that early menopause increases the risk of heart disease and osteoporosis.
It's hard to balance all these messages, but here's the takeaway: exercising five or more hours a week and eating heart-healthy diet is an overall plus.