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Another Menopause Side Effect: Shortness of Breath?
New research suggests lung function can decline significantly

By Randy Dotinga

TUESDAY, Dec. 13, 2016 (HealthDay News) -- As if hot flashes and night sweats weren't enough, a new study suggests that a woman's lung function seems to decline during menopause.

As their periods stop, women could find themselves becoming short of breath, said study author Kai Triebner, a graduate student in epidemiology at the University of Bergen in Norway.

"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 researchers found two aspects of lung function in particular that declined in menopausal and postmenopausal women.

These functions were: forced vital capacity -- a measurement of lung size; and forced expiratory volume in one second (FEV1) -- a measurement of how much air a person can forcefully blow out in one second. The reductions in performance, the study authors said, are beyond those that would be expected from aging.

The decline in forced vital capacity was equivalent to the damage caused by smoking 20 cigarettes a day for 10 years. The reduction in FEV1 was similar to what a pack-a-day smoker experiences over two years, the researchers said.

"The decline in lung function may cause an increase in shortness of breath, reduced work capacity and fatigue," Triebner said in a news release from the American Thoracic Society. "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 findings were based on an analysis of over 1,400 European women who were 25 to 48 years old when they joined the study. The researchers tracked them for 20 years.

Not surprisingly, smokers showed a steeper rate of lung function decline, the study found.

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

Hormonal changes related to menopause may play a role in lung function decline since they can lead to systemic inflammation and the bone-thinning disease osteoporosis. Osteoporosis can compress the height of the chest vertebrae, limiting air intake, the researchers said.

The researchers reported their findings in the Dec. 1 online edition of the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine.

More information

For more about menopause, see the U.S. National Institute on Aging.

SOURCE: American Thoracic Society, news release, Dec. 1, 2016

Copyright © 2016 HealthDay. All rights reserved. URL:http://consumer.healthday.com/Article.asp?AID=717463

Resources from HONselect: HONselect is the HON's medical search engine. It retrieves scientific articles, images, conferences and web sites on the selected subject.
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The list of medical terms above are retrieved automatically from the article.

Disclaimer: The text presented on this page is not a substitute for professional medical advice. It is for your information only and may not represent your true individual medical situation. Do not hesitate to consult your healthcare provider if you have any questions or concerns. Do not use this information to diagnose or treat a health problem or disease without consulting a qualified healthcare professional.
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