Menopause is associated with accelerated lung function decline

New research finds that menopausal women may experience an increase in lung function decline. Menopause is Associated with Accelerated Lung Function Decline is published in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine.

Cause of the menopause

As a woman gets older the balance in her sex hormones changes. The ovaries stop producing so much of the hormone oestrogen. This causes what we know as the menopause. Furthermore these changing levels of oestrogen, progesterone and testosterone play a role in age-related inflammation. And although we don't yet fully understand why, it appears that this decrease in oestrogen corresponds with a rise in the cytokines interleukin-1 and interleukin-6. This changes the rate at which new bone forms and is a leading indicator of osteoporosis.

Lung function decline

It’s this systemic inflammation that is associated with lung function decline. This is because osteoporosis shortens the height of the chest vertebrae. Consequently this limits the amount of air that can be inhaled.

The researchers say that lung function decline in menopausal women is comparable to smoking 20 cigarettes a day for 10 years. And researcher Kai Triebner at the Department of Clinical Science, University of Bergen (UiB), Norway says that "The decline in lung function may cause an increase in shortness of breath, reduced work capacity and fatigue.”

Maintain respiratory health during and after menopause

The study shows this lung function decline exceeded the expected age-related decline. And because women are living longer beyond the menopause, it is important to maintain respiratory health. The study suggests that clinicians should be aware that respiratory health often deteriorates during reproductive ageing.

Reducing lung function decline

Healthy lungs have a large breathing reserve. But if you have reduced lung function you may use a large part of your breathing reserve. And it’s this that will make you feel short of breath. However regular physical exercise can help improve your lung function. In addition breathing exercises such as POWERbreathe Inspiratory Muscle Training (IMT) are also beneficial.

POWERbreathe IMT can help

POWERbreathe IMT exercises your inspiratory muscles; the muscles you use to breathe in. These are mainly your diaphragm and intercostal muscles.

As you breathe in through the POWERbreathe IMT device your breathing has to work harder. This is because you are breathing in against a resistance. This resistance is adjustable so you are able to challenge yourself as your breathing becomes easier. And because you are exercising your breathing muscles they become stronger. And with stronger breathing muscles your breathing stamina improves too. Furthermore breathing fatigue will reduce. This means you’ll be able to do more with less effort. So the increase in shortness of breath, reduction in work capacity and fatigue that is highlighted in the study as a result of the menopause will reduce.

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