Skip to content

Asthma Health Center

Font Size

Menopause Ups Lean Women's Asthma Risk

For Asthma Risk, Middle-Aged Women Can Be Too Thin
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Dec. 21, 2007 -- When they reach menopause, lean women have a fourfold higher risk of asthma than heavier, but not obese, women who are still menstruating.

The surprising finding comes from a multination European study of 1,274 women age 45 to 56. About a third of the women had reached menopause; none was taking hormone therapy for menopausal symptoms.

Earlier studies have found no link between menopause and asthma or respiratory problems. But those studies did not take women's weight into account, note Francisco Gomez Real, MD, of Norway's Haukeland University Hospital, and colleagues.

The researchers stratified the women according to their body mass index or BMI -- a measure of weight adjusted for height. Those with a BMI of less than 23 had a fourfold higher risk of asthma symptoms. The normal BMI range is 18.5 to 24.9; the overweight range is 25 to 29.9, and a BMI of 30 or more indicates obesity.

Obese women, too, were at somewhat higher risk of asthma symptoms when they entered menopause.

"Women undergoing the menopausal transition might be at risk of deteriorating lung health," Gomez Real and colleagues suggest. "This applies to lean women and, to some extent, to obese women."

Women with a BMI between 23 and 28 appear to have the lowest risk of asthma when they go through menopause.

Why asthma at menopause? That's not clear. Gomez Real and colleagues suggest that declining estrogen levels increase insulin resistance, which in turn increases risk of lung inflammation. As fat tissue produces estrogen, the leanest women would be at the highest risk.

Despite the estrogen production from their extra fat, obesity itself increases insulin resistance. So obesity, the researchers suggest, cancels out the extra protection afforded by extra estrogen production by fat cells.

Gomez Real and colleagues report their findings in an in-press issue of the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, published online Oct. 29, 2007.

When Is Your Asthma Worse?

When Is Your Asthma Worse?

Take the WebMD Asthma assessment to get Personalized Action Plan

Start Now

Today on WebMD

Lung and bronchial tube graphic
5 common triggers.
group jogging in park
Should you avoid fitness activities?
asthma inhaler
Learn about your options.
man feeling faint
What’s the difference?
Madison Wisconsin Capitol
woman wearing cpap mask
red wine pouring into glass
Woman holding inhaler

Pollen counts, treatment tips, and more.

It's nothing to sneeze at.

Loading ...

Sending your email...

This feature is temporarily unavailable. Please try again later.


Now check your email account on your mobile phone to download your new app.

Man outdoors coughing
Lung and bronchial tube graphic
10 Worst Asthma Cities

WebMD Special Sections