FMS is most commonly diagnosed in women who are between the ages of 20 and 45. In this section, I give you more information on how age and FMS correlate in women of different ages, from young adulthood and middle age to women in their 50s and older.
Young and middle-aged women may both suffer from fibromyalgia. Young women may find that they're experiencing the onset of their fibromyalgia symptoms, or they may have had FMS for years. (I'm defining young women as females who are ages 18 to about 39, after which they can be better defined as women who are in their middle years.) Young women also may be prone to trying hard to ignore the problem, concentrating instead on the demands of their jobs and their children, and trying to work despite their pain and fatigue.
Women with fibromyalgia have an increased risk for metabolic syndrome
Some studies have shown that women with fibromyalgia are more likely to be overweight or obese than other women and to have more medical problems. One study, reported in a 2007 issue of Metabolism Clinical and Experimental, found that among 109 women with FMS, they had a 5.6 times greater risk of having metabolic syndrome than women without FMS. Metabolic syndrome is a serious health condition that is characterized by abdominal obesity (a body shape like an apple instead of a pear), high triglycerides, high blood pressure, low levels of high-density lipoprotein (HDL, the good cholesterol), and high fasting glucose (blood sugar) levels. The researchers also found that higher urinary levels of norepinephrine and cortisol were associated with a risk for metabolic syndrome.
Many women in early middle age (I'm defining middle age as 40 to the mid-50s) are more likely to experience problems with obesity and the onset of other health problems, such as arthritis. Fibromyalgia and its symptoms may be a burden that's laid on top of other emerging and serious health problems that middle-aged women experience.
FMS doesn't seem to be linked to perimenopause (the onset of menopause, or the cessation of menstruation), although studies need to be done to determine if such a link may exist. However, stress is strongly linked to fibromyal-gia, and many women, especially in their late 40s or 50s, are members of the "sandwich generation" — they're responsible for teenage children as well as caregiving for their aging parents. The stress that comes with this difficult role may trigger fibromyalgia in women who are predisposed to the problem.
d\NG/ Putting off acknowledging that you have FMS is a mistake. You're better off if you work on your medical problems when they first develop because you have a good chance of preventing them from getting much worse. You can't stop yourself from aging. But if you know that you have fibromyalgia as a young woman, with the help of your physician, you can work on creating a good plan of exercise, weight loss, and pain control. This plan may help you to shortstop a future that's clouded with much greater pain and more limitations than you currently face.
No one knows how many older women (and men) may suffer from fibromyalgia, but it seems likely that at least some do. In fact, one isolated study indicated that FMS actually peaked at age 70, after which it appeared to drop off in incidence. However, more studies need to be performed to determine the extent of fibromyalgia among older women.
One possibility is that older people may have FMS, but they also may have other medical problems that are so severe that they require a great deal of attention, such as a history of stroke, cancer, heart attack, severe osteoarthritis, diabetes, or other ailments. As a result, fibromyalgia may not seem like such a big deal to physicians in comparison to these other, often life-threatening, medical problems. (Although FMS is very painful, it's not a life-threatening condition.) It's also true that sometimes FMS symptoms may be ignored or even diagnosed as "you're just getting older" by some physicians.
For more on menopause, turn to Menopause For Dummies, 2nd Edition, by Marcia L. Jones, PhD, Theresa Eichenwald, MD, and Nancy W. Hall (Wiley).
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