Cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk factors, incidence and death increases from around the time of menopause comparing to women in reproductive age. A healthy lifestyle can prevent CVD, but it is unclear which lifestyle factors may help maintain and improve cardiovascular health for women after menopausal transition. We conducted a systematic review and meta-analysis of prospective cohort studies to evaluate the association between modifiable lifestyle factors (specifically smoking, physical activity, alcohol intake, and obesity), with CVD and mortality in middle-aged and elderly women. Pubmed, Embase, among other databases and reference lists were searched until February 29th, 2016. Study specific relative risks (RR) were meta-analyzed using random effect models. We included 59 studies involving 5,358,902 women. Comparing current versus never smokers, pooled RR were 3.12 (95% CI 2.15-4.52) for CHD incidence, 2.09 (95% CI 1.51-2.89) for stroke incidence, 2.76 (95% CI 1.62-4.71) for CVD mortality and 2.22 (95% CI 1.92-2.57) for all-cause mortality. Physical activity was associated with a decreased risk of 0.74 (95% CI 0.67-0.80) for overall CVD, 0.71 (95% CI 0.67-0.75) for CHD, 0.77 (95% CI 0.70-0.85) for stroke, 0.70 (95% CI 0.58-0.84) for CVD mortality and 0.71 (95% CI 0.65-0.78) for all-cause mortality. Comparing moderate drinkers versus non-drinkers, the RR was 0.72 (95% CI 0.56-0.91) for CHD, 0.63 (95% CI 0.57-0.71) for CVD mortality and 0.80 (95% CI 0.76-0.84) for all-cause mortality. For women with BMI 30-35 kg/m2 the risk was 1.67 (95% CI 1.24-2.25) for CHD and 2.3 (95% CI 1.56-3.40) for CVD mortality, compared to normal weight. Each 5 kg/m2 increase in BMI was associated with 24% (95% CI 16-33%) higher risk for all-cause mortality. This meta-analysis suggests that physical activity and moderate alcohol intake were associated with a reduced risk for CVD and mortality. Smoking and higher BMI were associated with an increased risk of these endpoints. Adherence to a healthy lifestyle may substantially lower the burden of CVD and reduce the risk of mortality among middle-aged and elderly women. However, this review highlights important gaps, as lack of standardized methods in assessing lifestyle factors and lack of accurate information on menopause status, which should be addressed by future studies in order to understand the role of menopause on the association between lifestyle factors and cardiovascular events.
Keywords: Cardiovascular disease; Lifestyle; Menopause; Mortality; Women.