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Mayo Clinic researchers looked at data from more than 7,600 women. Half of the group had a hysterectomy, while the other half (the "control" group) didn't have the procedure.
Women who had a hysterectomy before age 35 were much more likely to have a stroke than age-matched women in the control group, the investigators found. In addition, among women aged 35 to 40, high blood pressure was much more common among those in the hysterectomy group than those in the control group.
Although the study found an association between menopause and cardiovascular problems, the study wasn't designed to prove a cause-and-effect relationship.
"Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death among women, and women see primarily gynecologists between 18 years and 64 years -- a time when early screening for cardiovascular disease would be important," lead author Dr. Shannon Laughlin-Tommaso, an obstetrician-gynecologist, said in Mayo news release.
"We wanted to do this study to find a gynecologic screening method for cardiovascular disease," she added.
Women in the hysterectomy group were much more likely to have pre-existing cardiovascular disease risk factors than those in the control group. Women under age 35 in the hysterectomy group had the most cardiovascular risk factors and disease, including stroke, the investigators found.
Obesity was the cardiovascular disease risk factor most strongly linked with hysterectomy at all ages in the study. Other risk factors were associated with a woman's age when she had a hysterectomy.
Women who had a hysterectomy after age 50 did not have more cardiovascular disease risk factors and were less likely to have had a stroke or congestive heart failure, compared with age-matched women in the control group.
The findings show that women undergoing a hysterectomy should talk with their doctor about cardiovascular risks and possible prevention, the researchers said.
-- Robert Preidt
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SOURCE: Mayo Clinic, news release, July 29, 2015