Menopausal Women Who Smoke Face Increased Risks to Their Health

Dorian Martin Health Guide
  • Wanna give yourself a big present, one that will make you healthier, wealthier and wise as you age? That present is to quit smoking (or to never start). That’s because smoking is not good for anyone, but it can be especially bad for middle-aged women as they go through menopause.

    So before I launch into this sharepost, I want to go on record that my mother, who was my best friend, smoked like a chimney for much of her life. She started when she was a teenager and continued until she was in her 70s. She smoked several packs a day, but said she opted for the low-tar brands, believing that they were “healthier.” In her mid-70s, she was diagnosed with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and had to use supplemental oxygen for the rest of her life. In her late 70s, Mom started to experience mild cognitive impairment. By her early 80s, Mom had full-blown Alzheimer’s disease. She died in a nursing home in 2007 after having a bout of pneumonia.

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    So what has that got to do with you, a woman who is either starting to go through menopause or who already has completed this transition? The North American Menopause Society puts it bluntly in a headline for one of its stories: “Smoking makes menopause misery.” Why?

    • Earlier menopause - Women who smoke tend to enter menopause earlier. In fact, heavy smokers (like my mother was) can go through menopause two years before they normally would. In fact, some researchers have found that women who smoke are more likely to start menopause before they reach the age of 45.
    • More hot flashes - Researchers have found that women who smoke who are going through the menopausal transition have more frequent hot flashes. Furthermore those hot flashes are more severe in these women.
    • Increased risk of a lethal stroke – A newly published analysis of more than 80 international studies that were published between 1966 and 2013 found that smoking is linked to a 50-plus percent higher risk of ischemic stroke, which occurs when a blood clot blocks blood flow to the brain.  Furthermore, women who smoked had a 17-percent higher risk of having a hemorrhagic stroke, which involves bleeding. “Researchers suggested that the greater risk for bleeding stroke among women might be due to hormones and how nicotine impacts blood fats,” an American Heart Association press release stated. “It seems that fats, cholesterol and triglycerides increase to a greater extent in women who smoke compared with men who smoke, increasing their risk for coronary heart disease to a greater extent than in male smokers.”
    • Increased risk of heart disease – One 12-year study that included approximately 120,000 women nurses between the ages of 30-55 found that women who smoked were four times more likely to have a heart attack or die from heart disease than women who didn’t smoke. Women who started smoking before the age of 15 were nine times more likely to suffer heart problems.
    • Increased risk of breast cancer – A 2013 study found that women who smoke – especially those who started smoking before they gave birth to their first child – had an increased risk of breast cancer. The researchers found that women who started smoking before their first menstrual cycle had a 61 percent increased risk of breast cancer as  compared to women who had never smoked. Furthermore, women who started smoking after their first menstrual cycle 11 or more years prior to giving birth had a 45-percent increased risk of breast cancer.
    • Increased risk of diabetes –Approximately 22 percent of adults who have diabetes smoke, according to the American Heart Association. However, the most harmful effect of smoking has been found by researchers to be a significantly higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

    That's a lot of consequences that are attributed to one lifestyle habit. So to protect your health as you age, take a critical step by stopping smoking.

  • Primary Sources for This Sharepost:

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    American Heart Association. (2013).  Stroke risk similar among men and women smokers worldwide.

    Diabetic Care Services & Pharmacy. (nd). Diabetes & smoking: The health effects of smoking with diabetes.

    Gass, M. (2012). Smoking makes menopause misery. The North American Menopause Society. (nd). Smoking & your heart.

    Simon, S. (2013). Study links smoking to breast cancer. American Cancer Society.

Published On: August 26, 2013