Delaying menopause by even a few years can extend a woman’s lifespan, as the hormonal change leads to “faster” aging in the rest of the body, an expert says.
dr. Jennifer Garrison, an award-winning scientist who leads the Buck Institute for Research on Aging, warned that the process alters the body’s hormone balance, causing a faster decline.
Speaking at the Life Itself conference in San Diego, California, she said women who begin menopause in their 40s rather than around 51 — the average age — are likely to age faster than their peers.
Menopause is a natural part of aging and is triggered when the ovaries begin to produce less estrogen. However, little research has been done on why it is activated and what the health risks are.
Speaking at the conference hosted by CNNGarrison said, “By the time a woman is in her late twenties or early thirties, the rest of her tissue is functioning at peak performance, but her ovaries are already showing clear signs of aging.
“Still, most women learn about their ovaries and ovarian function when they first start using them, and find out they’re geriatric.”
She added: ‘Studies show that women who enter menopause later tend to live longer and have an improved ability to repair their DNA.
WHAT IS THE MENOPAUSE?
Menopause is defined as the changes a woman goes through just before and after she stops her period and can no longer conceive naturally.
Some women go through this time with few or no symptoms, about 60 percent experience symptoms that lead to behavioral changes, and one in four will suffer severely.
Common symptoms include hot flashes, night sweats, vaginal dryness leading to discomfort during sex, disturbed sleep, decreased sex drive, problems with memory and concentration, and mood swings.
Menopause occurs when your ovaries stop producing so much of the hormone estrogen and no longer release an egg every month.
US experts say that on average, women go through menopause at the age of 51, although it can start when someone is anywhere between 40 and 58 years old.
“But women who go through natural menopause before age 40 are twice as likely to die (early) compared to women who go through natural menopause between the ages of 50 and 54.”
During menopause – which starts between the ages of 40 and 58 – the body undergoes major hormonal changes as the ovaries stop making estrogen and progesterone.
In the early stages, this causes hot flashes, night sweats, vaginal dryness and mood swings, among other things.
But the process can also leave women with lifelong health problems, including osteoporosis.
It can also lead to weight gain, which increases the risk of diseases such as heart disease, stroke and osteoporosis.
Garrison warned that “once the ovaries stop working and reproduction stops, there are a whole host of really important hormones the ovaries make that are important for overall health.”
“After a woman goes through menopause, her body essentially ages faster and increases the risk of a whole host of different health problems — things like cognitive decline, stroke, cardiovascular disease and osteoporosis.
“After menopause, the risk of these things increases dramatically.”
Garrison has established a research organization – called the Global Consortium for Reproductive Longevity and Equality – to investigate the health effects of menopause.
Her current research focuses on whether there is a link between chemical signals from the brain and when menopause begins, and how to influence it.
At the conference, Garrison also blamed a historic lack of funding for so little research on menopause to date.
She said little was known about why the ovaries age so much faster than other parts of the body, as well as why the eggs in them decline in quantity and quality as we age.
Initially, the National Institutes of Health put less than one percent of their funding in this area — despite women making up half of the population.
However, this has now increased dramatically as grants are readily available for research.