Hot Flashes Continue Years after Menopause: What To Do?
If you are a woman hoping your hot flashes and night sweats will stop after menopause, results of a new study are not so reassuring. Researchers found that more than half of women were still experiencing hot flashes an average of a decade after their last period.
Hot flash study not a news flash for many women
Hot flashes (hot flushes) affect more than two-thirds of women in North America during perimenopause and nearly all women who experience premature or induced menopause. The severity of hot flashes can range from mildly annoying or uncomfortable to severe and debilitating, especially when accompanied by night sweats, which can significantly disrupt sleep.
Generally, the consensus has been that women have hot flashes and night sweats for between 2 to 5 years. However, this new study, published in BJOG: An International Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, reports on a much longer experience.
Investigators evaluated 10,418 postmenopausal women aged between 54 and 65, most of whom were white and living in an urban environment. Factors considered included body mass index, use of hormone therapy, lifestyle, medical history, and mood. All the women completed a questionnaire at the beginning of the study and then a follow-up survey 3.5 years later.
Most of the women (89.6%) reported having experienced hot flashes/night sweats at some time, with hot flashes being more common (86%) than night sweats (78%). More than half (54%) of the women said they were currently having hot flashes and night sweats, and this was true at a frequency of 33.5 per week across all ages.
According to one of the study’s co-authors, Professor Myra Hunter, Institute of Psychiatry, King’s College London, “Our study looked at a large number of older postmenopausal women and we were surprised to find that menopausal symptoms persisted in over half of the women. They were still having hot flushes on average ten years after their last period.”
Factors that helped predict who had ever had these symptoms included previous hysterectomy, smoking history, and high alcohol intake. Predictors of current hot flash/night sweat prevalence included depressed mood, anxiety, hysterectomy, less education, and years since last period.
Hunter emphasized that “there is a need for effective non-hormonal treatments for women with problematic hot flushes and night sweats, and for women who have a recurrence of hot flushes after they stop taking hormone therapy.”
For women who suffer with hot flashes and/or night sweats and who want an effective non-hormone treatment, the results of studies are contradictory, so finding relief may be a matter of trial and error.