Are you thinking of just toughing out hot flashes? The common menopausal symptom that drives many women into the arms of hormone replacement therapy just got a little harder to bear: A study recently published in JAMA found that hot flashes can last up to 14 years, especially if you start having them while you are still peri-menopausal. The median time a woman experiences hot flashes is 7.4 years, so the thought of enduring them for nearly twice as long isn't exactly welcome news.
The Study of Women’s Health Across the Nation (SWAN) is a multiracial/multiethnic observational study of the menopausal transition among 3,302 women enrolled at seven locations across the United States. Black and Hispanic women experienced hot flashes for significantly longer periods than white or Asian women. The researchers also found that the earlier a woman began experiencing hot flashes, the longer they were likely to continue. Women who experienced hot flashes before they stopped menstruating were more likely to continue for years after menopause.
Hot flashes and night sweats are among the menopausal symptoms most likely to cause women to seek medical help. Another study, this one led by the Mayo Clinic, found that caffeine -- no matter what time of day it was ingested -- triggered hot flashes and night sweats in postmenopausal women. And last year, a study determined that exercise -- while it may be good for you for other reasons -- had no impact whatsoever on controlling hot flashes.
While some have found success with herbal solutions and others go straight to HRT for relief, the idea that middle-of-the-night showers and sleeping with a cold, damp cloth around your neck could last for up to 14 years is likely to push many a "hot" button. Stress, after all, generally triggers a hot flash.