A study of over a million women has shown that women who had their first menstrual cycle at age 10 or younger, or age 17 or older, may be at higher risk of developing heart disease, stroke, and complications of high blood pressure.
Having the first menstrual cycle at the age of 13 appears to be the safest, according to the study.
"The size of our study, the wide range of ages considered, and the vascular diseases being examined made it unique and informative," said study lead author Dexter Canoy from University of Oxford.
For the study, the researchers analysed data collected from 1.3 million women aged 50 to 64 years old.
Compared to women who had their first menstrual cycle at age 13, women with their first menstrual cycle at age 10 or younger, or age 17 or older, had up to 27% more hospitalisations or deaths due to heart disease.
They had 16% more hospitalisations or deaths from stroke and 20% more hospitalisations with high blood pressure, or deaths due to its complications.
The effect of age of the first occurrence of menstruation on heart disease was consistently found among lean, over-weight, and obese women, among never, past or current smokers, and among women in lower, middle, or higher socioeconomic groups.
As childhood obesity is also linked particularly to early age at which the first menstrual cycle occurs, preventing the lowering of the average age of first menstrual cycle could have important implications for future health of the children.
The study appeared in the journal Circulation.