Several studies have looked at perceived links between the hormonal surge of the menopause and heart disease, the UK's biggest killer. But Johns Hopkins researchers concluded that ageing alone, not the menopause, explains the spike in deaths.
"Our data show there is no big shift toward higher fatal heart attack rates after menopause," said Dhananjay Vaidya, Ph.D., an assistant professor of medicine at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and the study's leader. "What we believe is going on is that the cells of the heart and arteries are aging like every other tissue in the body, and that is why we see more and more heart attacks every year as women age."
The research, published in BMJ, the British medical journal, analysed mortality statistics for people born in England, Wales and the United States between 1916 and 1945.
The number of women who die each year from heart disease increases exponentially at roughly 8% per year. However, each year they noted fewer heart disease deaths due to improved nutrition and lifestyle.
Dr Vaidya says women need education and heart health advice throughout life, not just during the menopause, to continue to improve that figure.