The Cost of Hot Flashes and the Importance of Physical Activity

Dorian Martin Health Guide
  • Hot flashes can really lead to the loss of productivity. However, surprisingly, being productive through doing household activities and caregiving may actually help women who experience hot flashes sleep better at night.

    Severe Hot Flashes = Loss of Productivity

    One recent study involved more than 3,000 women between the ages of 40-75 who participated in the 2010 U.S. National Health and Wellness Survey.  The researchers found that there was a cost of $6,560 in lost work productivity among women who suffered severe hot flashes. However, women who had mild symptoms had $1,079 in lost productivity.

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    Additionally, women who had hot flashes experienced higher costs for doctor visits ($962), as compared to the costs for women who were experiencing mild symptoms (($574) and women without symptoms ($257). The researchers also found that, even if they had the same body mass index and number of other illnesses, women who suffered more severe symptoms said they felt less healthy as compared to the descriptions by women who experienced milder symptoms.

    The researchers also found that many of the women who experienced hot flashes did so for a long period of time. For instance, approximately 40 percent of the women had hot flashes for more than seven years while up to 15 percent continued to have these symptoms for more than 15 years. The researchers also determined that the average age of women who experienced severe hot flashes was eight years older (59) than when most women go through menopause (51).

    “This study underscores the burden that severe hot flashes put on women and our society. It also emphasizes the need for more safe options to control symptoms,” said Margery Gass, Executive Director of the North American Menopause Society, in a press release. “New, safe, nonhormonal prescription options could be a great boon to the many women who have a need for hot flash therapy.”

    More Routine Daily Activity = Better Sleep

    Yet there may be other ways to get relief from hot flashes when you're trying to have a good night's sleep. Another study suggests that higher levels of routine daily physical activity may be the most important key in helping women who have hot flashes or night sweats get a good night’s sleep. In this study, researchers who were part of the Study of Women’s Health Across the Nation focused specifically on women who suffered from hot flashes and/or night sweats. This group included 27 white women and 25 African American women who were between the ages of 54 and 63.

    The researchers also specified that the women pay attention to differences between leisure time and household activity.  They asked the study participants to keep a record that rated their sleep and wore sleep monitors. The participants also completed questionnaires that assessed their physical activity, including routine chores related to household duties and caregiving that required light, moderate or vigorous effort.

    Their analysis found that women who had higher levels of physical activity reported that they slept better and had fewer times during the night when they were awake. Furthermore, the researchers found that the positive effects related to sleep were actually associated with household and caregiving responsibilities, rather than sports or exercise.

  • The researchers also determined that these findings were not comparable in all women. For instance, physical activity through household chores and caregiving responsibilities primarily were seen in women who were white and not obese. Therefore, researchers want to do additional studies to determine why African American women as well as obese women are not getting the sleep benefits.

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    These two studies provide two very interesting insights into hot flashes. The first is that hot flashes cost money, whether it’s through productivity or doctor’s visits. However, remaining productive in our daily lives through caregiving and household chores can actually help us sleep better during the night when we do suffer from hot flashes and/or night sweats.

    Primary Sources for This Sharepost:

    North American Menopause Society. (2013). Hot flashes? Active days bring better nights.

    North American Menopausal Society. (2013). Hot flashes take toll on life, health, and work.

Published On: April 16, 2013