If you're someone who gets a period, I'm willing to bet you remember the age you were the first time you got yours. And as it turns out, what that age was might matter in the long run: According to a recent study, the age you got your first period might affect your health in some surprising ways — or at least, it might predict trends in your long-term health and even give you a peek into your life expectancy. The study, conducted by researchers at the University of California San Diego School of Medicine, suggests that if you got your period after the age of 12 and experience menopause after the age of 50, you are more likely to live to the age of 90. The same study suggests that you will be less likely to develop coronary heart issues and diabetes, as well as less likely to smoke cigarettes.
Now, before we get into the details of how the study was conducted, it's important to remember that correlation isn't causation. While a study can find certain relationships and correlations between factors, it doesn't necessarily mean that one thing causes another to happen. So in this case, while the age of someone's first period may correlate with that person living to 90, it doesn't mean that having your period later causes you to live longer (or vice versa). This distinction is always, always, always important to keep in mind when we talk about scientific studies and research; it can be easy to conflate a correlation to a causation, when it isn't necessarily the case.
That said, though, noticing these correlations is still important, because they can point us in the right direction in terms of what future research might want to look a little closer at. For this particular study, which was published in the journal Menopause, researchers tracked 16,000 women who were over the age of 21, as well as ethnically and racially diverse. These participants were sourced via the Women's Health Initiative (WHI), an organization that conducts long-term, national investigation research on women and menopause. And by long-term, I mean really long term — participants in this study were tracked for a whopping 21 years, allowing researchers to get a massive amount of data on their cycles and health.
The main finding was that people who first got their periods at age 12 or older, who also experienced menopause at age 50 or older, and who had more than 40 reproductive years (that is, years in which they were able to have children) had a better chance of living to the age of 90. Researcher Aladdin Shadyab, PhD explained the study's results in a press release, saying, "Factors, such as smoking, can damage the cardiovascular system and ovaries, which can result in earlier menopause. Women with later menopause and a longer reproductive lifespan may have decreased risk of cardiovascular diseases."
Maybe this news will make those hot flashes less annoying.
Of course, as with all studies focused on women's health, this one is incredibly important because in general, the health of people who menstruate doesn't get a lot of attention, either in the media nor in the sciences. Too often, when we talk about women's health, it's considered a "taboo" or "private" matter, and this negative stigma has the potential to silence symptoms and health issues until it's too late.
The more research we can put into understanding our bodies, the higher the odds are that we'll reach medical and scientific breakthroughs to help us have happier, healthier lives overall.
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