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Menopausal characteristics and physical functioning in older adulthood in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey III

Tom, Sarah E. PhD1; Cooper, Rachel PhD2; Patel, Kushang V. PhD3; Guralnik, Jack M. MD, PhD4

Menopause: The Journal of The North American Menopause Society: March 2012 - Volume 19 - Issue 3 - p 283–289
doi: 10.1097/gme.0b013e3182292b06
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Objective We hypothesized that natural menopause would be related to better physical functioning compared with surgical menopause and that later age at menopause would be related to better physical functioning.

Methods Our sample comprised 1,765 women 60 years or older who participated in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey III, a cross-sectional study representative of the US population. Women recalled age at final menstrual period and age at removal of the uterus and ovaries and reported age, race and ethnicity, height, weight, educational attainment, smoking status, number of children, and use of estrogen therapy. Respondents completed a walk trial and chair rises and reported functional limitations.

Results Women with surgical menopause had chair rise times that were an average of 4.4% slower than did those of women with natural menopause (95% CI, 0.56-8.27). Women with natural menopause at age 55 years or more had an average walking speed of 0.05 meters/second (95% CI, 0.01-0.10) faster than did women with natural menopause at age less than 45 years. Later ages at natural and surgical menopause were also related to lower self-reported functional limitation. Women with surgical menopause at age 55 years or more had odds of functional limitation 0.52 times (95% CI, 0.29-0.95) that of women with surgical menopause at age less than 40 years, with similar patterns for natural menopause.

Conclusions Women with surgical menopause and earlier age at menopause had worse physical function in older adulthood. These groups of women may benefit from interventions to prevent functional decline.

In the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey III, women with surgical menopause and earlier age at menopause had worse physical functioning in older adulthood than did women with natural menopause and later age at menopause, respectively.

From the 1Department of Preventive Medicine and Community Health, University of Texas Medical Branch, Galveston, TX; 2Medical Research Council Unit for Lifelong Health and Ageing and Division of Population Health, University College London, London, UK; 3Laboratory of Epidemiology, Demography, and Biometry, National Institute on Aging, Bethesda, MD; and 4Department of Epidemiology and Public Health, Division of Gerontology, University of Maryland School of Medicine, Baltimore, MD.

Received April 22, 2011; revised and accepted June 13, 2011.

Funding/support: This research was supported by the Intramural Research Program at the National Institute on Aging, National Institutes of Health and National Institute on Aging award T32 AG027677. Dr. Cooper is funded by the New Dynamics of Ageing (RES-353-25-0001). Dr. Tom, a University of Texas Medical Branch Building Interdisciplinary Research Careers in Women’s Health Scholar, is supported by a research career development award (K12HD052023, Principal Investigator: Berenson), that is cofunded by the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, the Office of Research on Women’s Health, and the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

Financial disclosure/conflicts of interest: None reported.

The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development or the National Institutes of Health.

Address correspondence to: Sarah Elizabeth Tom, PhD, Department of Preventive Medicine and Community Health, University of Texas Medical Branch, 301 University Blvd., Galveston, TX 77555-0144. E-mail: setom@utmb.edu

©2012The North American Menopause Society