What you can do before menopause to ease hot flashes

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Maintaining a normal weight and quitting smoking before age 40 may significantly prevent hot flashes and night sweats during menopause, researchers say.

Researchers analyzed data from eight studies on more than 21,000 women—aged about 50—from Australia, the UK, the US, and Japan.

As reported in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, women who were overweight or had obesity and smoked had a higher likelihood of experiencing frequent or severe incidents of these symptoms—known as vasomotor symptoms (VMS) during menopause, says Hsin-Fang Chung, a research fellow in the School of Public Health at the University of Queensland.

Smoking is significant

“Obese women have a nearly 60% higher risk of experiencing frequent or severe VMS, compared to normal weight women,” Chung says.

“Women who smoke have more than an 80% higher risk of experiencing frequent or severe VMS, compared to women who have never smoked.”

An international collaboration examining women’s reproductive health and chronic disease across the life course, known as InterLACE, provided the data.

The World Health Organization (WHO) defines women who have a body mass index (BMI) of 25 or higher as overweight, and 30 or higher as being obese.

Smoking plays a significant part in the findings, Chung says.

“Smoking intensifies the effect of obesity and gives obese women who smoke more than three times the risk of experiencing frequent or severe VMS, compared with women of normal weight who have never smoked.”

Plan ahead

Determining modifiable lifestyle factors and identifying women with an increased risk of developing VMS during menopause is essential to develop preventive strategies to reduce the burden associated with the symptoms, says professor Gita Mishra, InterLACE project leader.

“The risk of experiencing frequent or severe VMS was particularly high for women who smoked more than 20 cigarettes per day or smoked for more than 30 years. This may be partly attributed to the anti-estrogenic effect of tobacco smoking.

“However, women who quit smoking before turning 40 have similar levels of risk to those who have never smoked.”

“These findings encourage mid-life women to engage in health promotion programs, and emphasize the need to quit smoking and adopt weight management strategies before menopause.

“Waiting until the menopausal transition or post menopause is too late to achieve maximum benefit of these findings,” says Mishra.

Source: University of Queensland