- Decline in lung function was observed in women during menopausal transition.
- Lung function decline was more pronounced in smokers compared to non-smokers.
- The decline in lung function may cause an increase in shortness of breath, reduced work capacity and fatigue.
Women who have undergone menopausal appear to experience an accelerated decline in lung function.
The title of the paper is "Menopause is Associated with Accelerated Lung Function Decline," and the study is published online ahead of print in the American Thoracic Society's American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine
‘It is important to maintain respiratory health before and after transition into menopausal phase.’
"Women are living longer and, therefore, many years beyond menopause," said Kai Triebner, MSc, lead author and a PhD candidate in epidemiology at the University of Bergen in Norway. "Our study highlights the importance of maintaining respiratory health long after the menopausal transition."
Studying the relationship
Researchers conducted a longitudinal population-based study of the relationship between menopause and lung-function decline.
They analyzed data from 1,438 women who were enrolled in the European Respiratory Health Survey.
Participants ranged from 25 to 48 years at the time of enrollment, and none had undergone menopause menopausal when the study began.
They were followed for 20 years and during that time most went through the menopausal transition or became postmenopausal.
The researchers adjusted their findings for age, weight, height, education and smoking history.
How Menopause affects Lung Capacity
Researchers report that both forced vital capacity (FVC), which is a measure of lung size, and forced expiratory volume in one second (FEV1) which is a measure of how much air can be forcefully exhaled in one second, declined in women going through the menopausal transition and after menopause.
This is beyond what is expected in a normal aging process.
Among the current and past smokers both the age- related and menopause-related lung function decline was more pronounced.
The authors wrote that the decline in FVC was equivalent to smoking 20 cigarettes a day for 10 years whereas the the decline in FEV1 was comparable to smoking 20 cigarettes a day for 2 years.
Decline in FVC was more pronounced than decline FEV1.This indicated that menopause was more likely to cause restrictive breathing problems, rather than obstructive breathing problems.
In restrictive breathing problems, one finds it difficult to fully expand lungs during inhalation while in obstructive breathing problems which includes conditions like COPD it may be difficult to exhale air from the lungs.
"Whether obstructive or restrictive, the decline in lung function may cause an increase in shortness of breath, reduced work capacity and fatigue," Mr. Triebner said. "Symptoms depend upon how much lung capacity is reduced, and a few women may actually develop respiratory failure as a result of this decline."
"Women, and their physicians, should be aware that respiratory health might decline considerably during and after the menopausal transition," Mr. Triebner said. "This could mean that they experience shortness of breath already with low physical activity."
Menopause brings hormonal changes that have been linked to systemic inflammation, which itself is associated with lung function decline.
Hormonal changes are also implicated in osteoporosis, which shortens the height of the chest vertebrae and may, in turn, limit the amount of air a person can inhale.
- Kai Triebner et al. Menopause is Associated with Accelerated Lung Function Decline. American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine; (2016)