Women have long suffered the effects of hot flashes during menopause, but what was once thought to only last a few years, can actually linger for more than a decade. Upwards of 14 years to be exact. A new, and terribly depressing study from JAMA has found that hot flashes and night sweats are frequently lasting at least twice as long as the once perceived norm in many women. Better yet, women who first experience hot flashes during peri-menopause (a time just prior to a woman entering menopause) see them lasting the longest. Essentially, the earlier they begin, the longer they last, because misery loves company and everything is awful.
The study found that only 1/5 of the participants began having hot flashes after peri-menopause, so that does not bode well for the female population in general. Worse still, certain cultures saw their hot flashes lasting longer than others. African-Americans reported the longest duration of hot flashes, with a median length of 10.1 years, although the reason for differences between ethnic backgrounds is still unclear.
The researchers also found a correlation between women’s duration of hot flashes and depression. The longer their symptoms lasted, the more likely they were to suffer from depression and anxiety. Since menopause is related to a decrease in estrogen levels typically regulated by the hypothalamus in the brain, it’s possible that the depression is just one of the side effects. It’s also totally possible that the depression is triggered by the lack of sleep that occurs due to significant and frequent night sweats.
While all of this information doesn’t give women anything to look forward to, it may help them choose the best course of action when it comes to managing their symptoms. Women who are more likely to experience hot flashes for a longer period may decide to look into hormone replacement therapy, while women with less severe cases may find relief from treatments like acupuncture or making changes to their diet. Either way, it’s important to remember that there is a light at the end of the incredibly hot, sweaty, and unbearable tunnel, and it’s a temperature-regulated paradise.