New research suggests that symptoms of menopausal women typically fall into four distinct categories in evenly dispersed numbers. Night sweats, hot flashes, and other menopausal symptoms, known collectively as vasomotor symptoms, affect millions of women a year.
These four categorical trajectories of vasomotor symptoms were analyzed in a study of 1,455 women over a fifteen-year period. Women enrolled in the ‘Study of Women’s Health Across the Nation,’ or SWAN. Participants had not yet gone through menopause at the the study’s beginning and lived in various locations throughout the country (Boston, Chicago, Detroit, Los Angeles, Newark, Oakland, and Pittsburgh).
The women, who forwent hormone therapy, reported their vasomotor symptoms yearly, as well as underwent a clinical examination and blood tests. Interestingly, certain trends emerged in four distinct categories.
- Chinese women consistently reported little to no symptoms during the menopause transition, more than any other group of women in the study.
- Women who reported drinking moderately to heavily, African American women, those with symptoms of anxiety or depression, and those with less education, all tended to have a higher number of menopausal symptoms.
- Symptoms were reported earlier in the ten-year period prior to the onset of menopause in women with anxiety and depression, as well as those whose heath was more poor than others their age, women with a high body mass index, and those who went through menopause at an older age.
- Symptoms were reported later in the transition correlated to women who smoked, African American women, and women with a lower body mass index.
Results of this study do much more than simply categorize and potentially predict menopausal symptoms. It has implications about a woman’s overall health. These four categories allow for better communication between women and their physicians when managing and predicting menopausal night sweats, hot flashes, and overall aging care. Further study and larger groups are needed to fully understand the link between vasomotor symptoms, preventative care, and managing the transitionary period of menopause.
Conducted by the University of Pittsburgh, Massachusetts, Michigan, California Davis, Utah, as well as Harvard and Wake Forest, the study was supported by the Office of Research of Women’s Health, the National Institute on Aging, and the National Institutes of Health. Find the full story here.