Menopause linked to decline in lung function

Menopausal women appear to experience an accelerated decline in lung function, according to new research.

An international group of scientists conducted the ‘Menopause is Associated with Accelerated Lung Function Decline’ study by analysing data from 1,438 women enrolled in the European Respiratory Health Survey (ERHS).

"Women are living longer and, therefore, many years beyond menopause," said Kai Triebner, lead author and a PhD candidate in epidemiology at the University of Bergen, Norway. "Our study highlights the importance of maintaining respiratory health long after the menopausal transition."

The researchers found that both forced vital capacity (FVC), a measure of lung size, and forced expiratory volume in one second (FEV1), a measure of how much air can be forcefully exhaled in one second, declined in women going through the menopausal transition and after menopause beyond what would be expected through normal ageing.

According to the researchers, the decline in FVC was comparable to smoking 20 cigarettes a day for ten years, and the decline in FEV1 was comparable to smoking 20 cigarettes a day for two years.

The scientists said that because the decline in FVC was more pronounced than that of FEV1, menopause was more likely to cause restrictive, rather than obstructive, breathing problems. Obstructive breathing problems make it difficult to exhale air from the lungs while restrictive breathing problems make it difficult to fully expand the lungs upon inhalation.

Mr Triebner explained: "Whether obstructive or restrictive, the decline in lung function may cause an increase in shortness of breath, reduced work capacity and fatigue.

"Symptoms depend upon how much lung capacity is reduced, and a few women may actually develop respiratory failure as a result of this decline."

The researchers said menopause brings hormonal changes that have been linked to systemic inflammation, which is associated with a decline in lung function.

Hormonal changes are also implicated in osteoporosis, which shortens the height of the chest vertebrae and may, therefore, restrict the amount of air a person can inhale.ADNFCR-2094-ID-801829316-ADNFCR