Hot flashes and night sweats. Why is it that some women seem more prone to one or both and others simply sail through menopause with flying colours, that is, why are some women resilient to symptoms and others vulnerable? Are genetics or race or psychosocial factors at play? Moreover, are there ways to predict which camp you fall into before you start menopause so that you can employ preventive measures or mentally prepare for what may come?
By examining information collected on over 4,000 women across the UK, researchers believe that they may have found a few answers to why some women do and some don’t. Here’s the lowdown:
Researchers first grouped 23 menopausal symptoms into six unique clusters, psychological, sexual, general, musculoskeletal, menstrual and bloating. They then further divided them by frequency and severity. The results?
Resilience to hot flashes appeared to be bolstered by having experienced less bother during menstrual periods, having fewer general symptoms (such as breathlessness, a frequent need to urinate, headaches or dizziness) and the perception that menopause and its symptoms did not have a significant consequence on one’s life.
Conversely, vulnerability to hot flashes appeared to be related to having one or more children, having a higher (>25) BMI, experiencing night sweats and the perception that menopause and its symptoms had a moderate to highly significant life impact.
How’s your physical health? Evidently the worse it is, the more vulnerable you are to night sweats. If you have hot flashes, you may also be more vulnerable; accompanying muscle and joint aches So does having sleep difficulties or a perception that menopause has a significant impact on your life. Women who are resilient to night sweats don’t smoke, tend to rely on psychological strategies to help manage their symptoms and like their hot flash counterparts, don’t perceive menopause as having a significant impact on their lives.
If you are wondering why any of this is important or relevant, just think about it: having a greater perception that menopause has a negative overall impact on one’s life can impact resilience or vulnerability to some of its most troublesome symptoms: hot flashes and night sweats. This suggests that behavioral or psychological interventions, seeking social support or simply learning more about the ‘pause may potentially impact how bad (or good) it ultimately is. Moreover, clusters of these factors appeared to have a greater or lesser impact, which truly challenges the ‘one size fits all’ model of treatment.
Menopause and (and how we go through it) isn’t always our choice. But isn’t it refreshing to know that there are aspects about the ‘pause that ARE in your control? Stop smoking if you are a current smoker. Think about how you allowing aging to impact how you perceive your life and if there are steps that you can take to do a 180 attitude adjustment. Try to shed a few pounds if you can. And if you are in the premenopausal phase, take some steps now to shift the ‘tude when your period hits.
Resilient or vulnerable? It may be up to you, at least in part.