Many women with fibroids experience heavy, long periods. They may also have irregular menstrual cycles. While unpleasant, new evidence suggests that these long periods could also be deadly. In fact, women with irregular or long period cycles were more likely to die before they turned 70. They also had a higher risk of dying from cancer and cardiovascular disease, especially if they experienced longer cycles.
The Health Risk of Irregular Periods
To reach their conclusions, studies explored life cycles of women with typical menstrual cycles (between 26 and 31 days.) Then, they compared the findings to women whose menstrual cycles lasted more than 40 days.
We already know that, in the short term, a long period can lead to anemia. Having irregular periods increased your risk for certain diseases and earlier death. And the risk increased dramatically if your cycles were irregular or long during your teen and adult years.
In addition to serious health risks, an irregular cycle also increased your odds of having a higher body mass index (BMI), high blood pressure, high cholesterol, excessive hair growth, endometriosis and growths in your uterus.gular
The exact reason for your increased risk of death wasn’t clear. But authors believe it may have something to with the disruption to your hormones.
Menstrual Cycle Study Details
The study, which started in 1993, involved 79,505 pre-menopausal women. None of them had a prior history of cardiovascular disease, cancer, or diabetes. Over the course of the study, they reported how long and regular their periods were at the ages of 14 to 17 years old, 18 to 22, and 29 to 46.
After 24 years, the team followed up with the women. They examined medical records, autopsy reports or death certificates. And what did they find? 1,975 of the women died before turning 70. Of those deaths, 894 were from cancer, and 172 from cardiovascular disease. Women with irregular or long period cycles were more likely to be among the deceased.
PCOS and Irregular Periods
But there’s more. Irregular periods weren’t the only risk for early death. So was your contraceptive use! In fact, study authors discovered that women who used contraceptive for more than 14 years were also in trouble. They believe this was related to younger women with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). Many PCOS sufferers start birth control in their teens to control symptoms. So this increased risk could also be tied to PCOS, another condition that leads to irregular periods.
Of course, the study authors note that PCOS is also linked to obesity. And PCOS can also cause insulin resistance and hypertension. Both of which could also affect your risk for early death.
Still, the research was pretty clear on one factor. Irregular periods, whatever their cause, are associated with premature death. And the most common cause of that early death is cardiovascular disease. Which should be cause for concern if you’re living with fibroids and irregular periods.
Of course, this study has limitations. But the authors hope will make women pay attention to their cycles because of these findings. After all, periods are “vital signs” of your overall health. In other words, problems with your period may be a sign of more serious problems. Whether that’s have fibroids, PCOS or another condition, it’s important to discuss your cycle with your doctor. And if you discover that fibroids cause your irregular periods? Schedule an appointment with our Houston fibroids experts to learn your treatment options.
Sources: MDEdge Endocrinology, The BMJ