According to new research, keeping a healthy weight and quitting smoking before the age of 40 may substantially relieve the hot flashes and night sweats that often characterize menopause.
Although menopause is a normal, healthy part of life, physiological changes that can bring discomfort sometimes mark the transition.
According to the North American Menopause Society, hot flashes are “the most common menopause-related discomfort.”
Scientists think that hot flashes are the result of changes in the brain’s hypothalamus — the area that helps control the body’s temperature.
When the hypothalamus “misfires,” it sends signals to the blood vessels on the surface of the skin to dilate and disperse body heat because it mistakenly “thinks” the body is too warm.
Because of this effect on blood vessels, medical professionals often refer to hot flashes and night sweats as “vasomotor symptoms.”
About 85% of menopausal females report experiencing hot flashes. What is more, approximately 55% of these individuals begin to experience hot flashes even before any other signs of menopause or before menstruation becomes irregular.
However, vasomotor symptoms are not necessarily unavoidable. New research suggests that quitting smoking and maintaining a healthy weight may help lessen these hallmarks of menopause.
Dr. Hsin-Fang Chung, from the School of Public Health at the University of Queensland in St. Lucia, Australia, is the lead researcher of the new paper, which appears in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology.
Being overweight, obese raises risk
Dr. Chung and team examined data from eight studies, summing up 21,460 females who were 50 years old, on average. The participants were from Australia, the United Kingdom, the United States, and Japan.
The research looked at associations between body mass index (BMI) and smoking, on the one hand, and the risk of vasomotor symptoms, on the other. The analysis also looked to see if the associations differed, according to menopausal stage.