Menopause, periods, and what they tell us about aging

So apparently there’s a time in most women’s lives when their bodies stop working the same. We call it menopause. The average age of onset is around 49 to 52 years of age, according to Wikipedia. Some countries have average ages around 44 [like India]. It’s not completely uncommon to have someone hit menopause at 40. Here’s a little chart of the onset age:

menopause-age-distribution-chart

So what in the world does this tell us about aging? Here’s my take: menopause is a definitive milestone in aging, and should be a key factor in determining life expectancy and overall health.

Menopause, I think we can agree, is a negative thing. It happens as you age and is associated with depression, mood swings, anxiety, and irritability. It’s a negative indicator, but still an indicator. It tells you how you’re doing. It tells you how your body perceives time.

Why do people in India go through menopause so early? At least in part due to their caffeine consumption. Check out these articles. They drink more caffeine younger than most countries. Girls are hitting their periods as early as eight. Not to mention, that early menopause is on the rise in India as well. It is not a coincidence that all of these happen in the same country.

Menstruation periods are also another interesting set of time data. There’s a fairly wide array of different times of menstruation. Periods can vary from 21 to 35 days, and as always, we just chalk it up to ‘every person is a little different.’

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So take a look at this chart. Obviously, there is a pretty wide spread of possible outcomes here. But what does it mean, if anything?

You have a couple interesting measurements here, that are personalized for your body. They are not meaningless.

Periods are just part of life for most women. They are told that the timing varies from person to person and from cycle to cycle. But just think about it for a second. If your body is doing the same thing this month in 21 days, and did it last month in 35 days, what did you do differently? Which is better?

The latter. Ever heard of exercised-associated Amenorrhea? It’s when lean female athletes miss periods. If you’ve read any of my other posts, I think the athlete is the ideal human. So when you’re cycle is longer or you miss your cycle, your lifestyle has basically been better than the month before. Whatever you’ve done, you’ve done it right. You’ve reduced mental strain in your life and begun to slow the aging process.

As you can imagine, studies have shown that average length of menstrual cycle correlates to the onset age of menopause. Here’s an excerpt from this study:

The age at which the final natural menstrual period occurs may be a marker for hormonal status or changes earlier in life.91 In the landmark Treloar longitudinal study of largely white, well-educated women, those whose median menstrual cycle length between the ages of 20 and 35 years was fewer than 26 days underwent natural menopause 1.4 years earlier than women with cycle lengths between 26 and 32 days, whereas a later natural menopause (mean = 0.8 year later) was observed in women with cycle lengths of 33 days or longer.92 In addition, 9 or more days of variability in cycle length has been associated with a later age at natural menopause in this and other studies,52,59 although 1 study reported an earlier natural menopause in women with irregular menses.53

Does caffeine effect your cycle? Yes. Ladies who consume more than 300 mg of caffeine a day were twice as likely to have a cycle under 25 days. These same women were much less likely to have periods long periods. [Source]

Wow. That’s a lot of info. What does it mean? It means you should think critically about the length of your periods, because they are a very valuable tool of how fast you’re aging.  How can I possibly know that? Because I understand how it effects the human perception of time.

So use your cycle as a tool to avoid menopause and aging as long as possible. Reduce your caffeine intake, and help prolong these unwanted parts of late life.

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