Live Longer Foundation, Inc.

Research Update: Age at Menopause Predicts Lifespan

Research from the Laboratory of Endocrinology, Aging and Disease provides evidence supporting the Reproductive-Cell Cycle Theory of Aging.  The theory defines aging as change in an organism over time, such that whatever controls the chemical reactions that regulate cellular growth, development, and decay, also controls aging.  The reproductive hormones of the HPG axis (hypothalamic-pituitary-gonadal axis), such as estrogen and testosterone, direct these cellular changes.  HPG axis hormones normally promote development of an organism early in life to achieve reproduction.  When the HPG axis becomes unbalanced later in life (e.g., during menopause), cell death and dysfunction can occur, which can lead to the accumulated bodily damage that happens over time and is associated with aging.

Thus the theory suggests that the hormones that regulate reproduction also regulate aging, and predicts that the longer the reproductive hormones of the HPG axis remain in equilibrium, the longer an organism will live.  This was tested in a study of over 5000 women whose age at the time of their last menstrual cycle was compared to their life spans.  Results showed that age at menopause did significantly predict mortality. There was a 2.6% reduction in mortality for every year of later menopause, such that women who reached menopause at age 40 had only a 39% chance of surviving to age 90, whereas those who didn’t reach it until age 55 had a 53% chance. Surgical and natural menopause resulted in identical lifespan probabilities and other reproductive traits were not found to be significantly predictive of mortality. 

This data supports the theory that aging is controlled by the reproductive hormones of the HPG axis.  Click here to access the article.

Source:  Yonker, J., Chang, V., Roetker, N., Hauser, T., Hauser, R., & Atwood, C. (2012). Hypothalamic–pituitary–gonadal axis homeostasis predicts longevity. Age. Advance online publication. doi:10.1007/s11357-011-9342-1