Mayo Clinic: I recently read about a study that showed women
should not have their ovaries removed before menopause because
of the increased risk of developing chronic conditions such as
heart disease, lung disease and depression. I had my ovaries
removed at age 44 when I had a hysterectomy and am now 55. Are
there things I can do to prevent the other conditions
mentioned in the study?
women who have their ovaries removed before 45 and before they
reach menopause naturally (usually around 51 in the U.S.),
menopausal hormone therapy, or MHT, often is recommended to
prevent the negative effects of early estrogen loss.
though, MHT likely would not be useful for you to prevent
chronic disease. There are, however, a variety of lifestyle
changes that could lower your risk of chronic disease.
Depending on your medical history, other steps may be helpful,
too. It would be worthwhile to make an appointment with your
primary health care provider to review your health risks and
discuss how you might reduce them.
study you mention, led by a Mayo Clinic research team and
published this fall, found that women who had both ovaries
removed before age 46 experienced a significantly elevated
risk of multiple chronic health conditions, including
depression, high cholesterol, heart disease, arthritis,
asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and
both ovaries — a procedure called bilateral oophorectomy —
triggers menopause in women who have not already gone through
it. Along with menopause comes a significant drop in the
amount of estrogen in a woman’s body.
study results showed that, in younger women, the premature
loss of estrogen caused by an oophorectomy may affect a series
of aging mechanisms at the cellular and tissue level across
the whole body that can lead to diseases in multiple systems
and organs. That means the effects of oophorectomy in
premenopausal women are much broader and more severe than
previously documented. With these findings in mind, the
researchers involved in the study recommend the practice of
removing the ovaries to prevent ovarian cancer be discontinued
in premenopausal women who are not at high risk of cancer.
women who go through menopause before 45, several options are
available to help lower the risk of chronic disease. Multiple
medical societies, including the North American Menopause
Society and the International Menopause Society, recommend
that women who go through menopause before 45, either
naturally or as the result of medical treatment, take MHT at
least until 51 — unless there is a clear reason not to do
so. MHT can help prevent the potential adverse, long-term
health consequences of losing estrogen too soon.
you are past 51, there is no evidence that MHT will help
prevent chronic disease in your situation, although it can be
useful in managing menopause symptoms such as hot flashes,
night sweats and sleep problems.
want to reduce your risk of chronic disease in midlife and
beyond, though, there are many things that you can do. Heart
disease is still the No. 1 killer of women, so lowering your
risk factors for heart disease is key. Lifestyle factors, such
as maintaining a healthy weight, eating a healthy diet,
exercising regularly and stopping smoking, are all crucial for
discussion with your primary health care provider is a good
idea, too. He or she can review your situation, including your
personal and family health history, so any treatment you may
need can be personalized for you, and you can understand and
modify your risks for future disease.