Harvard Women's Health Watch

Endometriosis linked to increased risk of heart disease

Research we're watching

Women with endometriosis—particularly those ages 40 and under—may have an increased risk for coronary artery disease, according to a prospective study by a team of Harvard researchers published in the May 2016 issue of Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes.

The researchers analyzed data from the Nurses' Health Study II, which included 116,000 women ages 25 to 42 who had no history of heart disease or stroke. Over a 20-year period, nearly 1,500 women in the study developed coronary artery disease. Those who had confirmed endometriosis had a 52% greater risk for heart at-tack, a 91% greater risk of chest pain, and a 35% greater risk of undergoing heart surgery, compared with women who did not have endometriosis.

The researchers noted that endometriosis has been linked to factors that also promote heart disease, including chronic inflammation and high levels of "bad" cholesterol. Although the symptoms of endometriosis of-ten abate after menopause, the risk factors remain.

The findings suggest that women with endometriosis should do everything they can to reduce their other cardiovascular risk factors, particularly following a healthy eating plan and getting at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise daily.