To measure the women’s biological age, the researchers looked at the length of telomeres in their white blood cells. Telomeres are the dangly bits at the end of chromosomes that shorten every time a cell divides. Their length is considered a measure of cellular age.
Between three and five years later, 250 of the women came back so researchers could calculate their risk of developing heart disease in the next decade – known as their Framingham score. This takes account of risk factors such as cholesterol levels, blood pressure and body weight.
As expected, the team found that women with lower egg counts had higher Framingham scores, but they also had shorter telomeres. Previous studies have suggested that shorter telomeres are linked with heart disease, dementia and cancer, and also with a shorter lifespan. So women with fewer eggs may also be at higher risk of other age-related diseases, although epidemiological studies will be needed to bolster this link."
(The Framingham Risk Score is a gender-specific algorithm used to estimate the 10-year cardiovascular risk of an individual. The Framingham Risk Score was first developed based on data obtained from the Framingham Heart Study, to estimate the 10-year risk of developing coronary heart disease. In order to assess the 10-year cardiovascular disease risk, cerebrovascular events, peripheral artery disease and heart failure were subsequently added as disease outcomes for the 2008 Framingham Risk Score, on top of coronary heart disease.)