As if dealing with menopause wasn’t tough already for women, two recent studies from UCLA have come forward with findings that show that menopause, and the accompanying insomnia, can play a role in speeding up the aging process.
Published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences and Biological Psychiatry the findings suggest that the risk of age-related diseases and earlier death in women is increased due to an early onset of menopause and insomnia.
According to a senior author of both studies, Steve Horvath, also a professor of human genetics and biostatistics at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA and UCLA Fielding School of Public Health, said that “It’s like the chicken or the egg: which came first? Our study is the first to demonstrate that menopause makes you age faster.”
In the menopause focused study methylation was tracked by Horvath and his team. Methylation is a chemical biomarker which is linked to aging. More than 3,100 women had their DNA samples analyzed as part of the study. The research concluded that cellular aging is sped up by an average of 6% due to menopause. “That doesn’t sound like much but it adds up over a woman’s lifespan,” said Horvath.
He gave an example of a woman entering menopause at the age of 42. After eight years her body would be a year older biologically when compared to a woman who entered menopause at the age of 50. The aging of the blood becomes faster if a woman enters menopause at a young age. As blood is a good indicator of what is going on inside a human’s body, older blood can imply a higher risk of age-related diseases and even death.
Coming to the other study which focused on insomnia the results showed that not being able to get proper sleep not only affects the functions of the body for the next day but can also influences the rate of ticking of a woman’s biological clock. The findings of this study, in which 2,000 women were observed, showed that postmenopausal women exhibiting at least five symptoms of insomnia were biologically two years older when compared to women of similar chronological age and without such symptoms.
The study encourages further research in order to see the ‘cause-and-effect’ relationship present between biological age and sleep disorders. Nevertheless, the current study does present important findings with regards insomnia playing a role in the increased biological age of women.
A total of 1.3 million women enter menopause annually in the U.S. While a lot of them are able to make the transition without exhibiting any psychological problems, approximately 20% of women suffer from depression. Hormone replacement therapy is available for the treatment of menopausal symptoms but it too has people for and against it.