Study Links Menopause to Lung Function Decline in Women

Study Links Menopause to Lung Function Decline in Women

Menopausal women experience a decline in lung function similar to smoking 20 cigarettes a day for a decade, according to new research from Norway.

The study, “Menopause is Associated with Accelerated Lung Function Decline,” was published in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine.

Menopause leads to alterations in sex hormones, which have an impact on immunity, inflammation, and osteoporosis, and may even impair lung function. However, lung function decline remains a critical matter to be examined in relation to menopause.

Now, Kai Triebner from the Department of Clinical Science at the University of Bergen (UiB) in Norway and colleagues examined whether lung function decline, assessed through forced vital capacity and forced expiratory volume in one second, is accelerated in women who go through menopause.

Researchers used data from the population-based longitudinal European Community Respiratory Health Survey. Data was collected from serum samples, spirometry, and questionnaires about respiratory and reproductive health from three study waves in 1,438 women in different stages of menopause.

The team found that menopausal status was associated with accelerated lung function decline, equivalent to smoking 20 cigarettes every day for a decade, and the decline in lung size was equivalent to smoking 20 cigarettes a day for two years.

“The decline in lung function may cause an increase in shortness of breath, reduced work capacity and fatigue,” Triebner said in a news release.

The symptoms depend on the magnitude of the lung function decline, and as a result, some women may actually develop respiratory failure.

“Women are living longer and, therefore, many years beyond menopause,” Triebner said, emphasizing that it is important for women to maintain their respiratory health long after menopause.

The results also revealed that current and past smokers revealed a sharper decline in both age- and menopause-related decline in lung function.

“There may be several possible explanations for these findings. Menopause brings hormonal changes that have been linked to systemic inflammation, which itself is associated with lung function decline,” Triebner said. “Hormonal changes are also implicated in osteoporosis, which shortens the height of the chest vertebrae and may, in turn, limit the amount of air a person can inhale.”

Women and their doctors should be aware that lung function might decline during and after they have transitioned to menopause.


  1. In fact during perimenopause, the overwhelming muscle fatigue due to estrogen depletion impacts also respiratory muscle function, reflected in lung function tests. More important in my mind, is the effect on the brain respiratory centre critically impacted by estrogen imbalance; therein i reached a point of repeated gasping episodes within hot flashes. As menopause is consummated, muscle fatigue( centrally and peripherally) recedes and pulmonary distress ameliorates; so was my case when i ended up in breathlessness and grunting at the outset, which are far reduced currently, after many crucifying years though!
    Dr Hana Fayyad, pediatrician ( Maria Jasmine Freeman, published author).

  2. Hello Kathy
    When challenged with menopause estrogen-changes, scientifically speaking the best treatment is estrogen replacement, which particularly should impact brain function, thus our breathing centre, over our skeletal muscles!! Given Hormonal therapy has its serious threats of cancer or stroke, thus many women refuse to use it or herbal estrogen preparations( ex black cohosh, etc..), or bioidentical hormones, what they remain with is working at 2 fronts. First, augmenting intake of natural -safe-dietary phytoestrogens, from whole grains, beans and pulse, legumes, veggies, nuts, dried fruits, flaxseed,yoghurt, and fish! The second front is what you already are practicing, keep your physical activity as allowed by your capacity, and even exceed it. In this context, there are studies that unfortunately point out that athlete women suffer more impactful decline at menopause, as regards, physical function, compared to non active women; so happened with me- I was not a professional athlete, but I practiced aerobics daily since adolescence, without interruption, and I became literally invalidated at menopause.
    Interestingly and ironically, if you leave menopause to do its work-through hot flashes, you are likely to turn corrected ultimately, but you need to be a heroine to endure the often horrid, and rather eternal symptoms!

  3. Remember, if you have asthma, or allergic disease, respiratory symptoms are likely to be intensified, and it is only in this context that asthma treatment modes may be helpful! Otherwise, those latter have no place in menopause fatigue and respiratory decline treatment.
    Maria Jasmine Freeman, published author, on menopause.
    Dr Hana Fayyad, pediatrician

    • Kathy says:

      Thank you for your replies. I do not have any other respiratory symptoms. I really don’t want to start hormone replacement therapy. What are your thoughts on soy for estrogen? I know it needs to be GMO free & organic. I currently try to follow a Mediterranean type diet & have started adding MACA for hormone balance.

  4. Hello Kathy; you are welcome.
    To make a long story short, I will say the following. For soy to exert the greatest impact as regards menopausal symptoms, it is the isoflavone extract that needs to be taken, as it has the estrogen like effect. Ironically, it is the same element that has benefit which may pose risks as regards estrogen- like impact. Actually the safety of soy extracts on uterine fibroids and cancer has not been fully established, while their effect on vasomotor symptoms is only partial. Stemming from there, while a woman faces little options with often v harsh symptoms, she may elect to include instead, whole soy foods, in her diet, together with other naturally edible phytoestrogen sources-as alluded in my previous post, to get any possible benefit, concomitantly ensuring the most safety possible.
    As for maca, with its estrogen like effect, it is reasonable to presume that the same safety issues arise as it is with soy. Keep in mind thus, an informed decision is crucial for a woman, to make her treatment choice in menopause, especially taking into consideration, her own health history, and that of her family, to weigh the risk benefit, of her decision.

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