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Lung Function Declines in Menopausal Women

Lung Function Declines in Menopausal Women

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By    |   Friday, 02 December 2016 11:11 AM


Women undergoing menopause experience an accelerated decline in lung function that leaves them with the lung capacity of long-term smokers, say Norwegian researchers.
The decline in forced vital capacity (FVC), which is a measure of lung size, was comparable to smoking 20 cigarettes a day for 10 years.


The decline in the volume of air that can be forced from the lung in one second (forced expiratory volume or FEV1) was comparable to smoking 20 cigarettes a day for two years.


The greater decline in FVC than FEV1 indicated menopause was more likely to cause restrictive breathing problems, which make it difficult to fully expand the lungs when inhaling (sarcoidosis), rather than obstructive, breathing problems, which make it difficult to exhale air from the lungs (COPD).


Participants in the study were 25 to 48 years old at the beginning of the study, and none were menopausal. They were followed for 20 years, and most either went through menopause or became postmenopausal during the study. Those who were current and past smokers showed a steeper decline in lung function.


The authors said there were several possible explanations for their findings. Hormonal changes during menopause 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 limit the amount of air a person can inhale.


"Women, and their physicians, should be aware that respiratory health might decline considerably during and after the menopausal transition," said lead author Kai Triebner of the University of Bergen. "This could mean that they experience shortness of breath already with low physical activity.


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


Other physical problems are associated with menopause. Estrogen, which declines with menopause, appears to protect the heart, so the rate of heart disease in postmenopausal women begins to catch up with men. Heart disease is the No.1 killer of women.


Additional problems can include liver damage, since estrogen also women also helps repair damage caused by infections and alcohol. After menopause, scar tissue can build. Declines in estrogen can also increase inflammation throughout the body, triggering immune diseases.


"Women are living longer and, therefore, many years beyond menopause," Triebner said. "Our study highlights the importance of maintaining respiratory health long after the menopausal transition."


The study will be published in the American Thoracic Society's American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine.


 

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Women undergoing menopause experience an accelerated decline in lung function that leaves them with the lung capacity of long-term smokers, say Norwegian researchers. The decline in forced vital capacity (FVC), which is a measure of lung size, was comparable to smoking 20...
lung, function, declines, menopausal, women
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2016-11-02
Friday, 02 December 2016 11:11 AM
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