Menopause is a natural phase in a woman’s life, marking the end of her reproductive years. While it is a universal experience, the journey through menopause is highly individualized. Genetics plays a pivotal role in determining not only when menopause occurs but also the type and severity of symptoms women may experience during this transition. Let’s take a look at what hereditary factors may influence menopause, as well as non-genetic factors that contribute to certain symptoms.

Menopause Timing May Be Hereditary

Menopause typically occurs between the ages of 45 and 55, with the average age being around 51. However, it is not uncommon for women to experience menopause earlier or later than average. Studies have shown that genetics contribute to nearly 50 percent of the variation in age of menopause for an individual. This means that if your mother experienced early or late menopause, you’re more likely to follow suit. 

Is Premature Ovarian Insufficiency Genetic?

Premature Ovarian Insufficiency (POI) is very early menopause that occurs before age 40. In rare cases, it can even occur in early adulthood. POI can be inherited due to a partial or complete deletion of an X chromosome in those assigned “female” at birth (Turner Syndrome or Fragile X). 

More often, however, POI is due to environmental factors, such as toxins, prior viral infections, or radiation and/or chemotherapy. Certain autoimmune disorders may also result in POI. In other cases, there may not be any discernible cause (idiopathic POI). 

How Genetics Influence Menopause Symptoms

Surprisingly, research regarding how genetics affects menopausal symptoms is rather limited. However, existing studies have found a genetic link between two of the most notorious menopausal symptoms: hot flashes and night sweats. 

A study by the University of Michigan found a definitive connection between variants in a specific receptor gene and the presence of “vasomotor symptoms,” which include hot flashes and night sweats. This is a good indication that these symptoms, at least, tend to run in families. Studies are ongoing in an effort to help women predict and manage menopausal symptoms.

What About Other Menopause Symptoms?

While studies are limited as to the hereditary nature of other menopause symptoms, anecdotal evidence suggests there is a connection. Again, however, every woman’s journey will be unique. What we do know is that certain non-genetic factors can increase the severity of certain symptoms. For example:

Being Overweight

Being overweight is associated with an increased prevalence and severity of perimenopausal and menopausal symptoms. A 2019 study found that “marked weight loss” in obese women resulted in significant improvement of symptoms, especially hot flashes, mood disorders, and sleep disturbances.

Of course, weight issues can be hereditary. In this case, one could argue that menopausal symptoms experienced by overweight women are, indeed, genetic.

Smoking

Not only can smoking increase your likelihood of experiencing early menopause, it can intensify symptoms like night sweats and hot flashes. Again, research suggests that there may be a genetic predisposition to smoking. In this way, menopausal symptoms experienced by women who smoke could arguably be hereditary. 

Diet

Nutrition plays a major role in your body’s regulation of hormones. It makes sense, then, that your diet could affect the type and degree of symptoms you experience during menopause. Certain types of foods have been shown to increase vasomotor symptoms (hot flashes and night sweats). Caffeine, spicy food, fatty food, and alcohol all have a negative effect on menopausal symptoms. 

On the other hand, diets that include elements like soy and fewer oils have been shown to reduce the severity of menopausal symptoms. 

Personalized Approaches to Menopause Management

Approaching menopause with certain genetic factors in mind can help you plan for and manage your symptoms. Keep in mind, however, that just because your mother had a bad experience does not mean you will. Your healthcare provider will work with you to strike a balance between preparing for possible hereditary issues and adopting lifestyle modifications that will significantly improve your journey. 

At Balanced Body Health & Wellness, we use bio-identical hormones in tandem with diet modification, supplementation, and other unique strategies to help you achieve physical and psychological harmony. Our care plans are tailored to your personal needs and goals, and we will be with you every step of the way. If you are ready to start the journey toward better health and wellness, call our office or go online today to schedule an appointment.