Simply put, menopause is the time in a woman’s life where she stops menstruating, effectively ending the reproductive phase in her life. This typically happens in a woman’s forties or fifties. A woman is not officially in menopause until she has not had a period for 12 months. Many women dread this time in their life greatly. Understanding what symptoms may occur and how to ease them may help with the transition. We will discuss the vasomotor symptoms of menopause to help you understand it better.
What are the Vasomotor Symptoms of Menopause?
Vasomotor is defined as being related to the parts of the brain that regulate blood pressure. Many of the first symptoms of menopause are vasomotor ones. This is due to the hormonal changes that the body is going through at the time. These symptoms often last anywhere from five to seven years. In some cases, they can last a lifetime.
When there is a sudden increase of blood flow, uncomfortable heat and sweating often follow. During the day, many women refer to this experience as a hot flash. When it happens at night, it may be called night sweats instead. Typically, the increase in blood flow happens to the face, neck, and chest. For some women, this feeling is accompanied by chills, feeling flush, and great anxiety. In extreme cases, heart palpitations may occur as well.
How long an episode lasts varies from woman to woman. In most cases, it is less than five minutes. This is long enough to cause major disruption, however, especially when the episodes are waking a woman up at night. The vasomotor symptoms of menopause are typically the most severe in the first year or two of menopause.
What are the Risk Factors for Vasomotor Symptoms of Menopause?
A majority of women will experience vasomotor symptoms to some degree. A few lucky ones may escape without any, however. There are certain factors that tend to increase the odds of having symptoms, as well as their severity and how long they persist. They include:
- Obesity: Being overweight can increase the odds of having hot flashes.
- Smoking: Smokers also tend to report more hot flashes than non-smokers do.
- Ethnicity: African American women report hot flashes more often than women who are of European descent. At the same time, Asian American women have tend to have fewer issues than those of European descent.
Since the odds are good a woman will experience vasomotor symptoms to some degree, it is important to know what can be done about it. Estrogen therapy is considered the most effective treatment. However, it can increase a woman’s risk for certain cancers. As a result, the lowest effective dose should also be taken. Women who are reluctant to go with estrogen therapy may be described other medications, such as something for high blood pressure, to combat the symptoms. Anti-depressants may be used as well to help women through this sometimes difficult transition in life.
Lifestyle changes can also be effective. They include carrying cold water, dressing in easily removed layers, avoiding certain foods, and quitting smoking, if applicable. Paced respiration, a method of deep breathing, can also be beneficial at the beginning of a hot flash.