Researchers Link Early-Onset Menopause to a Higher Risk of Type 2 Diabetes

Janet Tiberian Author
By Janet Tiberian, MA, MPH, CHES
September 22, 2017
Early Menopause and Type 2 Diabetes

Early menopause has long been associated with symptoms like weight gain, bone thinning and insomnia, but new research also links early-onset menopause and type 2 diabetes.

In the recent study, researchers at Erasmus University Medical Centre, Netherlands, built on previous work that showed women who went through early menopause (before age 45) have an increased risk of cardiovascular disease. In that research, women who entered normal-onset menopause (between ages 50 and 54) have a lower risk of cardiovascular disease.

These results led researchers to wonder if women who went through early menopause had a higher risk of type 2 diabetes, a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease. In fact, the number one complication of type 2 diabetes is heart disease.

Researchers used data from a previous cohort study. In cohort studies, researchers follow and analyze self-reported data from a group of people for a specific amount of time to help them find a correlation(s) between specific factors, in this case age of menopause, and potential causes of disease. Correlations only show a relationship between two variables, not necessarily a cause.

Researchers studied 4,000 women who were in menopause but did not have diabetes. Researchers collected information on current health status, health history, medications, tobacco and alcohol use, physical activity level, education level, socioeconomic status, menstrual history and pregnancy history. Height, weight, blood pressure and body mass index were also measured. A blood draw was used to confirm levels of thyroid stimulating hormone, cholesterol, triacylglycerol, C-reactive protein, fasting insulin and glucose, estradiol and sex hormones. Finally, researchers weighed the genetic risk each woman had of developing type 2 diabetes via genotyping.

The study’s results suggested:

  • Almost 350 women (about nine percent) developed type 2 diabetes over the course of nine years.
  • Women who were younger than 40 at menopause were four times as likely to develop type 2 diabetes when compared to women who were 55 or older as they entered menopause.
  • Women between the ages of 40 and 44 were 2.4 times as likely to develop type 2 diabetes.
  • Women between 45 and 55 had a 60 percent greater chance of developing type 2 diabetes.
  • Women 55 or older had a 4 percent lower chance of developing type 2 diabetes for each year they were still menstruating beyond age 55.

Although more research is needed, researchers believe menopause might be a sign of advanced aging. As a result, women’s bodies after menopause are less efficient in repairing damaged DNA and maintenance genes. If this theory is accurate, it also indicates that women who go through an earlier menopause may have a higher risk for other diseases.

Got questions about menopause or type 2 diabetes? Talk to your MDVIP-affiliated physician. Looking for a primary care physician? Patients in MDVIP-affiliated practices can customize a wellness plan for you, including the management of prediabetes and diabetes. Find an MDVIP affiliate near you and begin your partnership in health »

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About the Author
Janet Tiberian Author
Janet Tiberian, MA, MPH, CHES

Janet Tiberian is MDVIP's health educator. She has more than 25 years experience in chronic disease prevention and therapeutic exercise.

View All Posts By Janet Tiberian, MA, MPH, CHES
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