Losing Weight May Help Reduce Menopausal Hot Flashes

Dorian Martin Health Guide
  • Are you a woman suffering from hot flashes as you go through the menopause transition?  It turns out you’re not alone. About 33 percent of women who are going through this transition experience more than 10 hot flashes daily. Additionally, these hot flashes are more commonly seen in women who are obese. Researchers believe that fat serves as an insulator which interferes with heat dissipation, thus causing women who are overweight to have more of these “power surges.”

    So if fat serves as an insulator, would it make a difference if women lose weight? That’s what a new study out of the University of Pittsburgh explored. The study involved 40 overweight or obese women who had hot flashes. These women were randomly assigned to either a behavioral weight loss intervention or a wait-list control. The researchers evaluated the women’s hot flashes before and after the intervention through monitoring the women’s physical responses as well as asking the women to keep a diary and complete a questionnaire.

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    Their analysis found that 74 percent of the women reported that their major motivator to lose weight involved reducing hot flashes. The women who participated in the weight loss intervention lost more weight that the other group; in addition, the women who participated in the weight loss intervention said they had a greater reduction in hot flashes, according to their answers on the questionnaires.

    While losing weight is a great idea, it can be easier said than done when women reach the menopausal transition because of changing hormones as well as a slowing metabolism caused by aging, genetics, loss of muscle mass, a sedentary lifestyle and stress . However, it’s important to keep an eye on your weight since excessive pounds at this time of life can increase the risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, colorectal cancer and breast cancer.

    The Mayo Clinic recommends the following to keep a healthy weight:

    • Move more - Especially focus on aerobic exercise and strength training in order to gain muscle.
    • Eat less – As you age, your metabolism is slowing, meaning you need fewer calories to stay at the same weight.  Therefore, by the time you reach your 50s you need to consumer 200 fewer calories a day that you did when you were in your 40s to maintain your weight. However, as you reduce calories, make sure you focus on eating nutritious foods such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean protein.
    • Build a support group – Enlisting your own personal cheerleading squad comprised of family members and friends can help you with your weight-loss efforts.

    While this all is good and valid advice, I also was interested in learning more about what a behavioral weight loss intervention would look like since it was described in the study.  According to the Society of Clinical Psychology, this type of treatment is a short-term intervention to achieve acute weight reduction and establish new behavioral patterns so a person can maintain the weight loss.

  • So what types of behavioral strategies could you adopt to help you lose weight and then maintain the loss? Here are some suggestions:

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    • Set goals – Try to set a specific goal that isn’t too ambitious, and then get regular feedback on your progress so you can improve your outcomes. “Specific goals about exercise or types of food you will eat – behaviors you have control over – are better than goals to improve cholesterol or glucose levels, which may fluctuate for reasons outside your immediate control,” stated Christy Matta, MA, on PsychCentral’s blog.
    • Monitor yourself in order to notice physical cues and challenges you experience to changing your behavior.
    • Avoid negative self-talk.
    • Get feedback as well as reinforcement from outside sources, which can help you adjust your behavior and make sure you’re being realistic.
    • Believe that you can achieve your goal.
    • Develop incentives that will support your change in behavior such as treating yourself to a pedicure or massage when you reach certain marks in your weight loss.

    Primary Sources for This Sharepost:

    Matta, C. (2013). 5 cognitive behavioral strategies for losing weight that work. Psycentral.com.

    Mayo Clinic. (2013). Women’s health.

    MedlinePlus. (2014). Losing weight may ease hot flashes, study finds.

    Society of Clinical Psychology. (ND). Behavioral weight loss treatment for obesity and pediatric overweight.

    Thurston, R.C., et al. (2014). Behavioral weight loss for the management of menopausal hot flashes: a pilot study. Menopause.

Published On: July 16, 2014