I have a feeling that many middle-aged women will soon renounce any belief that seven is a lucky number. That change of allegiance will be due to a new study that focused on how long hot flashes and night sweats last during the menopausal transition.
The researchers, who analyzed longitudinal data collected during the Study of Women's Health Across the Nation, found that more than 50 percent of the women in the study experienced frequent hot flashes and night sweats. Furthermore, these nuisances lasted for more than seven years That's a heck of a long time to be uncomfortable.
The study's other findings included the following:
- More than 50 percent of the participants continued to have frequent hot flashes and night sweats for 4.5 years after their final menstrual period.
- Women who had their last period before they started having hot flashes or night sweats experienced these disturbances for the shortest amount of time (3.4 years).
- Women who had their first hot flash or night sweat when they were premenopausal or in early perimenopause experienced these nuisances for the longest period of time (around 11.8 years). These participants also continued to suffer from these uncomfortable episodes for 9.4 years after their final menstrual period.
- African-American women reported the longest duration of hot flashes and night sweats (10.1 years).
- Other factors linked to longer duration of hot flashes and night sweats included lower educational levels, greater perceived stress, greater sensitivity to symptoms, more symptoms of depression and greater anxiety when first experiencing hot flashes or night sweats.
If you're among the women who are experiencing lots of hot flashes and/or night sweats, what can you do?
- Consider lifestyle changes: Exercise, diet and meditation may help relieve these pesky symptoms. Additionally, smoking and drinking alcohol may trigger hot flashes. Therefore, it's important to evaluate your lifestyle choices and take specific actions that might limit or stop hot flashes and night sweats.
- Talk to your doctor about possible treatments: Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) is one option, but be cautious since studies continue to suggest that HRT may cause serious consequences. For instance, researchers just released a meta-analysis that found that HRT taken for less than five years may actually increase the risk of ovarian cancer by 40 percent. The good news is that your doctor has other items that may help, such as antidepressants and oral contraceptives.
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Primary Sources for This Sharepost:
Avis, N. E., et al. (2015). Duration of menopausal vasomotor symptoms over the menopause transition. JAMA Internal Medicine.
The Lancet. (2015). The Lancet: Short-term use of hormone replacement therapy associated with increased ovarian cancer risk.