It’s bad enough that every cigarette you smoke shaves about 7 minutes from your life. But now comes another review in the February 2012 issue of Menopause that shows smoking lowers the age of natural menopause.
First the background. Natural menopause, the kind that happens from normal aging and not from surgery or chemotherapy, happens on average at age 51 in the United States. Subtle changes start up to a decade sooner, but things pick up about age 47 and those symptoms last for about 4 years. I’m talking about hot flashes, problems sleeping, vaginal dryness, painful sex and other unpleasantries that affect quality of life and that we’ll discuss in future blog posts.
Now the facts on smoking and menopause. A number of studies have found an association between smoking and menopause, but a new study actually quantifies it by combining the data from 11 prior reports to make the conclusions stronger. The technique is called meta-analysis. Drum roll please: Smokers go into menopause on average 1.12 years or 13.5 months earlier. Another meta-analysis study of 109 prior reports found similar information (Parente RC, et al. Maturitas 2008:61;287-298).
What it means to you. If the issue of an earlier menopause isn’t enough, you already know smoking is bad for you. If you are tying to conceive, it increases your risk of ectopic (tubal) pregnancy, miscarriage and stillbirth and if you smoke while pregnant, it increases the chances of your baby becoming addicted to cigarettes. The baby will also be smaller sized.
Earlier menopause is associated with more menstrual cycle irregularity, and increases the risk of heart disease, blood clots and osteoporosis, to name a few.
And what if you live with a smoker? Not ideal. Second hand smoke contains 7,000 chemicals of which 250 are harmful. It causes 3,000 deaths from lung cancer and nearly 50,000 deaths from heart disease and other illnesses every year plus more hot flashes and more of the other typical menopausal symptoms.
It’s national heart month. And smoking isn’t good for you. Live longer, delay menopause, and improve the quality of your life. Quit smoking.