Causes and Risk Factors of Menopause

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Menopause is a condition that all women will experience as they get older. It signals a shift in your hormone production (specifically estrogen) which will end your menstrual cycles and with it your egg production.

Menopause can happen as early as in your 40s, but most women won’t go through it until they are in their 50s, with the average age of menopause happening in the U.S. at 51. If you’ve gone a year without a period, it’s classified as menopause.

woman dealing with menopause
 valentinrussanov / Getty Images

Common Causes

If you find yourself going through menopause in your 50s, the most common cause is the natural aging process. While some of the symptoms of menopause are unpleasant, it's completely normal in the cycle of your reproductive life.

Your hormone levels decrease as your ovaries stop producing eggs. This happens because as the ovaries age, they become less responsive to follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) and luteinizing hormone (LH), which trigger egg production in the first place.

This happens slowly at first (known as perimenopause), with less egg production (and therefore ovulation and periods) until the ovaries stop producing eggs completely and your menstrual cycle with it. If it has been 12 consecutive months since your last period you are considered out of perimenopause and in menopause.

Early menopause, however, is a different situation. Going through menopause between the ages of 40 to 45 is classified as early menopause, and if it occurs before the age of 40 it is considered premature menopause. There are several causes that may lead to this, including:

There’s no treatment for early menopause, but there are many options to help ease the symptoms of dealing with it. If you think you’re experiencing menopause symptoms and are under the age of 50, don’t rule it out. Make an appointment with your healthcare provider to see if early menopause might be an issue for you.


Your family history plays a big role in the menopause transition as well as if you may have to deal with early menopause. Past research published in Fertility and Sterility found that over 37% of early menopause cases studied reported a family history of menopause before the age of 46.

Even if you don’t go through early menopause, the age at which you start noticing symptoms will be closely linked to your mother, sister, or grandmother’s menopausal age.


Menopause won’t cause cardiovascular diseases but having risk factors for cardiovascular issues such a diet high in fat, smoking, or preexisting conditions will increase the risk for developing heart disease as you go through the menopause transition.

The decrease in estrogen production also increases your cardiovascular risk, as the hormone is thought to keep blood vessels flexible to promote a healthy blood flow. According to the American Heart Association (AHA) an increase in heart attacks has been seen in women approximately 10 years after menopause occurs.

Lifestyle Risk Factors

There are a few lifestyle habits that can influence how old you are when you start to go through menopause. Smoking may have you dealing with menopause up to two years earlier than nonsmokers and increase your risk of early menopause.

Research published in the Journal of Mid-Life Health discovered that alcohol consumption and caffeine intake may affect your age of natural menopause. And while a diet high in fat may lead to dealing with menopause earlier, filling up on fruits and veggies can do the opposite.

The study found that a healthy diet delays the onset of menopause and extends your reproductive lifespan thanks to the antioxidants found in many of these foods that can protect the ovaries and its follicles.

A Word From Verywell

Going through menopause can be both a physically and emotionally challenging time. You have to deal with the start of a new chapter of your life (one where reproducing naturally is no longer an option) while at the same time cope with symptoms like hot flashes, mood swings, and more.

Even if you are well into your 50s and no longer interested in having children, the hormonal shift can still be upsetting. Make sure to talk to your healthcare provider about both your symptoms and feelings as you deal with menopause. They’ll be able to set up a treatment plan for both the mind and body.

Plus, menopause can increase the risk of certain diseases like osteoporosis, so it’s important to check in regularly with your healthcare provider to stay up to date on the proper screenings you need as you age to stay healthy.

7 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. North American Menopause Society. Menopause 101: A primer for the perimenopausal.

  2. Cedars-Sinai. Menopause.

  3. Cleveland Clinic. Menopause, perimenopause, and postmenopause.

  4. Cramer D W, Xu H, Harlow B L. Family history as a predictor of early menopause. Fertil Steril. 1995 Oct;64(4):740-5. doi: 10.1016/s0015-0282(16)57849-2

  5. American Heart Association. Menopause and heart disease.

  6. Yang HJ, Suh PS, Kim SJ, Lee SY. Effects of smoking on menopausal age: Results from the Korea National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, 2007 to 2012J Prev Med Public Health. 2015;48(4):216-224. doi:10.3961/jpmph.15.021

  7. Sapre S, Thakur R. Lifestyle and dietary factors determine age at natural menopause. J Midlife Health. 2014;5(1):3-5. doi:10.4103/0976-7800.127779

By Colleen Travers
Colleen Travers writes about health, fitness, travel, parenting, and women’s lifestyle for various publications and brands.