Got Hot Flashes? New Solutions for Women Experiencing Menopause
IS IT HOT IN HERE? Why you’re feeling the heat during menopause plus information and resources for October World Menopause Awareness Month.
World Menopause Month (WMM) was created to raise awareness of menopause, related symptoms and health issues, as well as the support options available for improving women’s health and well-being during this stage of life. While most women experience menopause as a natural stage of the aging process[i], many are still apprehensive about this time in their lives.[ii]
Vasomotor symptoms (VMS) associated with menopause are the medical definition for hot flashes and night sweats.[iii] VMS are experienced by up to 80% of women during menopause3, some for as long as 10 years.[iv] In the US, nearly a quarter of women experience hot flashes every day.[v] On average, women report 5 or more hot flashes per day though some experience up to 20 per day.[vi]
Hot flashes are a sudden intense sensation of heat in the upper body (usually in the face, neck and chest), which last between 1 and 5 minutes, and may be accompanied by sweating, chills, anxiety and heart palpitations.3 Night sweats are hot flashes that occur at night during sleep3 and have the potential to drench bedding, disrupt healthy sleep and make it difficult to focus and function the next day.[vii]
VMS originates in a part of your brain called the hypothalamus, which regulates your body’s temperature. 6 To keep your internal thermostat in check, your body relies on having a balance between estrogen and a brain chemical called Neurokinin B (NKB).[viii]
During menopause, levels of estrogen and NKB become unbalanced. 8 This causes neurons in your hypothalamus to tell your body you’re hot when you’re not. To cool down, your hypothalamus triggers hot flashes and night sweats.[ix]
VMS negatively impact sleep (82%), concentration (69%), mood (69%), energy (63%) and sexual activity (41%).[x] VMS disproportionately affects African American women (46%) and Hispanic women (34%).1 The prevalence of VMS is 31%, 21% and 18% among Caucasian, Chinese and Japanese women respectively. 1
VMS can negatively impact aspects of your quality of life since these symptoms can occur day or night, 7 and can impact sleep, work, and relationships. 8 Hot flashes can be unpredictable6 and embarrassing[xi] – becoming flushed and sweating in public, whether in a social situation or at work, can lead to anxiety and social isolation. 4
Dr. Mary Jane Minkin, MD and Clinical Professor in the Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology, and Reproductive Sciences at Yale, joined me to discuss vasomotor symptoms associated with menopause. Dr. Minkin will also revealed why these symptoms occur, the impact of hot flashes on women and a website recently launched to help educate women with the challenges they face surrounding VMS. You can also learn more at WhatsVMS.com.
ABOUT OUR GUEST
Dr. Mary Jane Minkin, OB/GYN and Clinical Professor in the Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology, and Reproductive Sciences at the Yale University School of Medicine.
Dr. Mary Jane Minkin is a clinical professor in the Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology, and Reproductive Sciences at the Yale University School of Medicine, and a board-certified OB/GYN, holding a private practice in New Haven (CT) for over 40 years.
Dr. Minkin serves as a fellow of the American Congress of Obstetrics and Gynecologists (FACOG) and has also been a North American Menopause Society Certified Menopause Practitioner (NCMP) since 2002. She has held the position of Director of the Sexuality, Intimacy and Menopause clinic in the Division of Gynecological Oncology in the Smilow cancer center at Yale New Haven Hospital since 2008, and the Director of the Yale Obstetrical and Gynecological Society (YOGS) since its inception in 2006.
Actively involved in various prestigious committees and having won numerous teaching and faculty awards, Dr. Minkin is an established leader in women’s health education both inside and outside the medical community. Nationally known within the field of gynecology, her expertise is publicly recognized in print and broadcast media across the nation.
[i] Freeman EW, Sharif K. Prevalence of hot flushes and night sweats around the world: a systemic review. Climacteric 2007;10(3):197-214.
[ii] Parish SJ, Nappi RE, Kingsberg S. Perspectives on counseling patients about menopausal hormone therapy: strategies in a complex data environment. Menopause 2018;25(8):937-49.
[iii] Thurston RC. Vasomotor symptoms. In: Crandall CJ, Bachman GA, Faubion SS, et al., eds. Menopause Practice: A Clinician’s Guide. 6th ed. Pepper Pike, OH: The North American Menopause Society, 2019:43-55.
[iv] Utian WH. Psychosocial and socioeconomic burden of vasomotor symptoms in menopause: a comprehensive review. Health Qual Life Outcomes 2005;3:47.
[v] Williams RE, Kalilani L, DiBenedetti DB, et al. Frequency and severity of vasomotor symptoms among peri- and postmenopausal women in the United States. Climacteric 2008;11(1):32-43.
[vi] Avis NE, Crawford SL, Green R. Vasomotor symptoms across the menopause transition: differences among women. Obstet Gynecol Clin North Am 2018;45(4):629-40.
[vii] English M, Stoykova B, Slota C, et al. Qualitative study: burden of menopause-associated vasomotor symptoms (VMS) and validation of PROMIS sleep disturbance and sleep-related impairment measures for assessment of VMS impact on sleep. J Patient Rep Outcomes 2021;5(37):1-13.
[viii] Krajewski-Hall SJ, Miranda Dos Santos F, McMullen NT, Blackmore EM, Rance NE. Glutamatergic neurokinin 3 receptor neurons in the median preoptic nucleus modulate heat-defense pathways in female mice. Endocrinology 2019;160(4):803-16.
[ix] Padilla SL, Johnson CW, Barker FD, Patterson MA, Palmiter RD. A neural circuit underlying the generation of hot flushes. Cell Rep 2018;24(2):271-7.
[x] Williams RE, Levine KB, Kalilani L, Lewis J, Clark RV. Menopause-specific questionnaire assessment in US population-based study shows negative impact on health-related quality of life. Maturitas 2009;62(2):153-9.
[xi] Pinkerton JV, Abraham L, Bushmakin AG, Cappelleri JC, Komm BS. Relationship between changes in vasomotor symptoms and changes in menopause-specific quality of life and sleep parameters. Menopause 2016;23(10):1060-6.