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5 Factors That May Predict When You Start Menopause

In life, there are certain things you can predict i.e. the weather, the day of the week, or maybe even if a pair of pants will fit. However, while life does offer us a few glimpses of predictability, there are still an array of life’s wonders that continue to mystify us. One being none other than menopause. Although menopause and everything come with it (hot flashes, anyone?) may be a predictable aspect of life, knowing when it will happen is not. But as it turns out, there are actually a number of factors that could affect the age of onset of menopause and the determination of the quality of life in menopause, according to research.

Of course, every woman is different, therefore making it difficult to predict the exact age that all women will start menopause, but according to the National Library of Medicine, a number of studies can provide insight into what may affect the onset age of menopause. “There are several factors in play as to when menopausal symptoms start to show,” says Dr. Anna Cabeca, a triple-board certified OBGYN based in Dallas and author of The Hormone Fix, Keto-Green 16, and MenuPause. Reproductive health is a factor, but so is your overall lifestyle. She adds, “Ask yourself ‘Am I active? Do I work out regularly? Am I following a healthy diet?'” Read below to see what else she and medical organizations had to say about the factors that could determine when you start menopause.

Genetics

“Menopause is highly hereditary,” says Dr. Cabeca. “Genetics encompass 50% of the onset age, and how challenging or less challenging of an experience it will be for a woman. Your genetics are essential to determining how a woman will fare through this transition and beyond,” she adds. The North American Menopause Society (NAMS) also states that women in North America will likely experience natural menopause between ages 40 and 58, averaging around age 51. Some women, however, reach this phase in their 30s, others in their 60s. 

What is also important to understand is that depending on when you become menopausal, it can put you more or less at risk for other health issues down the line. Dr. Cabeca notes that earlier menopausal onset is linked to lower bone density and a greater chance of developing osteoporosis, but in exchange, it may put you at a lower risk of developing hormone-sensitive cancers.

Reproductive health surgeries

“Reproductive health surgeries will have a direct impact on menopause onset and can override your genetic predisposition,” says Dr. Cabeca. “If you undergo a hysterectomy and remove one or two ovaries, it will have a direct impact on your hormone production and trigger your progesterone and estrogen to dip. If you remove both ovaries, it will lead to what we refer to as surgical menopause onset.” She notes that this is one of the reasons why in most recent years, doctors have stopped removing ovaries when performing a hysterectomy unless absolutely necessary, as they’re trying to preserve the natural flow of a woman’s aging process as much as possible.

Use of tobacco

While we know smoking is bad for your overall health, smokers also tend to go through menopause 1-2 years earlier than non-smokers (they also have worse hot flashes!). One study published in Tobacco Control found that active smoking and SHS (secondhand smoking) exposure are associated with an increased risk of infertility and natural menopause occurring before the age of 50 years, compared with women who never smoked.

Age of menarche

Menarche refers to the first occurrence of menstruation. Findings from some studies suggest that early menarche and nulliparity (refers to a condition or state in which a woman has never given birth to a child, or has never carried a pregnancy), are associated with early menopause, however overall the evidence is mixed. However, after studying 51,450 postmenopausal women, the Human Reproduction Journal found that early menarche (age 11 or younger) is a risk factor for early menopause.

Number of pregnancies

A November 2021 study asked if age at natural menopause increases with the increasing number of childbirths. The study found that the age at menopause increased with an increasing number of childbirths up to three childbirths; however, there was no further increase in age at menopause beyond three childbirths. It’s important to note that several studies have reported that women with no or one childbirth are at increased risk of early menopause. This study did not study the risk of early menopause, but it did find that women with no or one childbirth are overrepresented among women with early menopause.

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