We Know About Postmenopausal Whales-What About Women?


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Today I submitted a question to the comment wall about the postmenopausal whales asking whether or not the average age women begin menopause has changed in recent years. Though Andrew couldn't provide an answer, he suggested that someone write a blog about it, so here I am! While Googling "age of menopause" provided plenty of information, it was difficult to find the type of information I was looking for. An article published on MyHealthNewsDaily.com explained that research done by the Institute of Cancer research in the UK found strong evidence that a woman's lifestyle as a young adult could affect the age at which she begins menopause. While the strongest influence was smoking, weight gain, exercise, and alcohol consumption also appeared to have an effect. As Andrew mentioned in class, not having children can also lead to earlier menopause, but this was proved by an earlier study. In fact, having more than three children was linked to a later menopause.
The closest thing I could find to actual data about changes in the average age of menopause over time was in an abstract published by the Indian Institute of History of Medicine in 2002. Interestingly, the medicalization of menopause didn't even occur until the 1970s, though Aristotle did refer to the age of menopause as 40. Historically, menopause has been documented as occurring at earlier ages. The age at which it begins is also later in Western countries than in developing countries like India. Probably the most interesting piece of interesting thing I found was that the symptoms of menopause actually vary depending on the area of the world the woman is from. We don't know why this is.
Millais_Grandmothers_Apology.jpg
So, long story short, this blog post resulted in more questions than answers. But to leave you with something interesting-my relentless Googling actually turned up a 1998 article entitled A Natural History of Menopause, published by the university's very own Research Penn State. It even references what we talked about in class about the importance of the postmenopausal woman to the family, otherwise known as "The Grandmother Hypothesis".

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