I’m in my mid-thirties and I’m already nervous about how to delay menopause, or the biological process marking the end of a woman’s menstrual cycle, which typically occurs in the late 40s or early 50s. This article is the first of two on this subject, and the second one in two weeks will compare different products for delaying menopause.
Menopause brings increased risks of certain health conditions that correlate with aging, including heart disease, stroke, and osteoporosis. In other words, menopause is an aging milestone that women want to delay for as long as possible. Yes, that does mean continuing to use free period trackers indefinitely. I’ll make the trade.
(Plus, according to reliable sources like my mother, going through menopause sucks in general.)
But is delaying menopause possible?
The short answer is: possibly. Genetics play a huge factor in when you’re likely to hit menopause, so set your expectations around when your mother hit menopause as a baseline.
From there, some lifestyle changes and supplements may help delay menopause—though the science is unclear by how much.
How to delay menopause: what I found in the research
When I set out to research the topic, I was looking for practical advice for pre-menopausal women. There were a ton of options for menopausal women, but not a lot for those looking to actually delay the onset of menopause itself. What I found was that lifestyle changes and two medical interventions (NMN and Rapamycin) were the best options for the greatest number of women.
Nutrition and exercise
Some research has been done on which diet is best for delaying menopause. I couldn’t find much on low-carb diets, but one study noted that severe caloric restriction at a young age makes menopause onset earlier, as evidenced by survivors of the 1944-1945 Dutch famine.
In a roundup of the literature about early and delayed menopause for the Journal of Mid-Life Health, authors Sapre and Thakur summarize their findings on diet. Basically, the antioxidants in fruits and vegetables might delay menopause by protecting ovarian follicles from oxidative stress. While high-calorie diets, rich in carbohydrates and proteins, also appear to postpone the age of natural menopause, the data on carbs is mixed, with some studies showing no significant impact. The role of dietary fiber, soy products, and red meat remains unclear, signaling the need for more extensive research.
Interestingly, high polyunsaturated fat intake might hasten menopause, whereas total fat and saturated fats don’t seem to have a noticeable effect.
Less research has been done on exercise, but the findings are intuitive. In a 2012 analysis called “Body mass index, exercise, and other lifestyle factors in relation to age at natural menopause: analyses from the breakthrough generations study,” researchers found that exercise participation delayed the onset of menopause. Severe weight loss or vigorous exercise accelerates menopause, however, because it reduces estrogen levels in women.
Have kids or planning to have them? You may want to breastfeed.
A 2020 study in JAMA Obstetrics and Gynecology investigated the relationship between breastfeeding and the onset of menopause. After following 108,887 premenopausal women, the study found that those who breastfed for seven to twelve months had the latest onset of menopause when compared to their peers, especially among those with multiple children.
One study of African-American women found that the use of oral contraceptives for one year during childbearing years also delayed the onset of menopause.
The quest to delay menopause and extend women’s reproductive years has led to intriguing research involving the drug rapamycin. This drug, originally approved for preventing organ rejection in transplant patients, is now being investigated for its potential to slow ovarian aging.
One notable study, known as the VIBRANT trial, conducted by physicians at New York-Presbyterian/Columbia, is exploring the effects of low-dose rapamycin on women’s ovarian reserve. This trial is significant as it’s the first time rapamycin is being evaluated in humans specifically for slowing down ovarian aging.
The study includes 50 healthy women between the ages of 38 and 45 who are not interested in conceiving. These participants will be given either weekly oral rapamycin or a placebo, with both the participants and researchers unaware of who receives the actual drug. The trial aims to assess whether rapamycin can slow down the release of eggs from the ovarian reserve, thereby potentially delaying the onset of menopause.
Further supporting this line of investigation, other research has shown that rapamycin can delay ovarian aging in mice. It is believed that this drug slows or even reverses certain age-associated pathways in the ovaries.
NAD+ is found in all living cells and is vital for many biological processes. There’s ongoing research to see if increasing NAD+ levels in our bodies can improve our health as we age. Some studies suggest that taking supplements that boost NAD+ might help, but this area of research is still developing.
One study highlighted that NAD+ declines with age in oocytes, the eggs produced in the ovaries. This decline in NAD+ is linked with reduced oocyte quality, a key factor in fertility. Interestingly, treatment with NAD+ precursors, specifically nicotinamide mononucleotide (NMN), has been shown to rejuvenate oocyte quality in aged female mice, leading to restored fertility. This treatment also seemed to reverse the adverse effects of aging on embryonic development.
Further research published in Immunity and Ageing delves into how NAD+ metabolism affects ovarian aging.
Essentially, this process could reverse signs of ovarian aging. NAD+ precursors like NMN, by enhancing NAD+ levels, have been shown to reverse the aging phenotype of oocytes in female mice and mitigate the effects of aging on development. These findings suggest a strong link between NAD+ metabolism and the quality and longevity of ovarian cells.
The quest to delay menopause is not just about extending the reproductive years. It’s about improving the overall quality of life and health outcomes for women as they age. The ongoing research into rapamycin, NMN, and other potential interventions offers hope for new strategies to manage this critical phase of women’s health.
What are you doing, if anything, to delay menopause? Let us know in the comments!
By day, I am a problem solver, writer, and the co-founder of Longevity Advice. I’m best known for writing about technology and have been featured in Forbes, The Hill, and TechRepublic. When the batteries are powered down and the suit comes off, I’m an enthusiastic hiker, runner, and Rocket League competitor and enjoy discussing minimalism, Studio Ghibli, and Icelandic sheepdogs.