In addition to hot flashes and irritability, some women experience another symptom of menopause: shortness of breath. If this one doesn’t seem like a likely candidate, let us explain why you may experience it and what you can do about it.
What is shortness of breath?
Shortness of breath is often described as having trouble breathing, breathlessness, severe tightening of the chest, or feeling like one is being suffocated. Also known as dyspnea, shortness of breath can be caused by a wide variety of situations or conditions ranging from obesity to high altitude, strenuous exercise, and extreme temperatures. Medical conditions may also cause this symptom, such as heart attack, low blood pressure, asthma, pneumonia, and pulmonary embolism.
How is shortness of breath associated with menopause?
The authors of a Norwegian study whose participants were followed for 20 years reported that lung function among menopausal and postmenopausal women can decline, resulting in shortness of breath. According to the authors, menopause seemed to have an impact on women’s forced vital capacity, which is an indication of how much breath someone can take in and exhale. The amount of decline seen was similar to that by someone smoking 20 cigarettes a day for 10 years.
Menopause also appeared to affect forced expiratory volume in one second, which is the amount of air someone can forcefully exhale in that time period. The decline was similar to that of someone smoking 20 cigarettes daily for two years. Although the study results didn’t prove that menopause causes shortness of breath, there seemed to be an association.
The researchers also noted that hormonal changes related to menopause and postmenopause may have a role in shortness of breath because they can result in systemic inflammation and osteoporosis. This latter condition can cause compression of the chest vertebrae, which may then impact lung function.
How can you manage shortness of breath naturally?
Here are a few modifications you can make to your life to help manage shortness of breath.
- Do not smoke and also avoid secondhand smoke
- Steer clear of areas with high levels of air pollution
- Avoid high elevations of 5,000 feet or higher
- If you are overweight, take steps to lose pounds
- Exercise regularly to help gradually increase your lung capacity
- If you can tolerate coffee, the caffeine may reduce muscle tightness in your airways
- Drinking fresh ginger tea or using ginger in your food or as a supplement may help reduce inflammation in the respiratory tract
- Practice purse breathing, which can slow your breathing and manage breathlessness. The steps are simple: sit in a comfortable position with your back straight. Slowly inhale through your nose for 4 to 5 seconds. Be sure to send the air to your abdomen. Purse your lips and exhale for 4 to 6 seconds. Repeat the inhale and exhale steps 10 to 20 more times. Practice this technique at least once daily.
when you should see a doctor
If your shortness of breath becomes worse or it happens when you are resting, see your doctor as soon as possible. You should also see your doctor if you are experiencing cold sweats, fainting, swollen ankles or feet, chest pain, wheezing, fever, cough, or nausea along with dyspnea.
Shortness of breath can develop among women during menopause and postmenopause. Natural management solutions are available, and women are encouraged to make these changes in their lives if this symptom affects them.