By Joy Stephenson-Laws, JD, Founder
Menopause is inevitable for every female. It marks the end of fertility for women.
The transition to this phase of a woman’s life involves many hormonal changes and can come with some pretty unpleasant symptoms like hair loss, weight gain, depression, mood swings, insomnia, vaginal dryness and night sweats and Hot Flashes.
And if you are a woman going through the transition to menopause and experiencing night sweats and hot flashes it is very important to do everything you can to reduce and better manage these symptoms, because they may lead to some very serious health issues.
A study published in Menopause, the journal of the North American Menopause Society (NAMS) suggests that hot flashes, probably one of the most common symptoms of menopause, may be a precursor to diabetes.
Researchers pulled data from more than 150,000 postmenopausal women. They found that 33% of them had experienced hot flashes during menopause. And incidence of hot flashes was linked to an 18% increased risk for diabetes. Furthermore, the risk for diabetes appeared to increase in women who experienced more severe and longer hot flashes. Women who experienced hot flashes accompanied by night sweats also appeared to have an increased risk, but only if this occurred in the late stages of the menopause transition.
“Diabetes hits women hard, especially at midlife. In the United States, it’s the number 6 killer of women ages 45 to 54 and the number 4 killer of women ages 55 to 64,” according to the North American Menopause Society (NAMS).
In the U.S., the average age for menopause is 51-years-old. The perimenopause or menopause transition may begin 8-10 years before a woman actually enters menopause.
“This study showed that, after adjustment for obesity and race, women with more severe night sweats, with or without hot flashes, still had a higher risk of diabetes," says Dr. JoAnn Pinkerton, NAMS executive director. "Menopause is a perfect time to encourage behavior changes that reduce menopause symptoms, as well as the risk of diabetes and heart disease.”
So how can we be proactive about hot flashes and other menopause symptoms?
- Get adequate exercise. Women tend to lose muscle mass and gain weight, especially around the abdominal area, during menopause. More research is needed, however, being overweight or obese may be associated with hot flashes. To learn about different types of exercise and what’s appropriate for your age group, read here.
- Get adequate sleep. According to the National Sleep Foundation, many women report having sleep issues during the transition to menopause. This may be due to the hormonal and nutrient deficiencies or changes that occur during this period of a woman’s life.
- Eat a heart-healthy diet. It is critical to eat plenty of anti-inflammatory, waist-friendly foods, like fruits and vegetables, to reduce your risk for heart disease and diabetes. An Australian study with around 6,000 women suggested that women who followed a mostly Mediterranean diet and ate plenty of fruits had fewer hot flashes.
- Avoid smoking. There are endless reasons why you should avoid smoking. The biggest reason you are likely thinking of is cancer. But smoking may make controlling diabetes more difficult. Several studies have also linked smoking to more hot flashes, likely due to the chemicals in cigarette smoke further causing more hormonal imbalances.
- Avoid excess alcohol consumption. Alcohol has also been linked to an increase in hot flashes. Drinking excessive amounts of alcohol is not good for overall health. It may lead to weight gain and increase your risk for developing diseases, including cancer, diabetes, hypertension and heart disease.
- Ensure your nutrients are balanced. As we get older (around the time we hit 50), our bodies may have difficulty absorbing nutrients such as certain vitamins and minerals from the foods we eat. This is why it is imperative to get a comprehensive nutrient test to determine whether you have any nutrient deficiencies or imbalances. If you do, you may have to tweak your diet, take good quality supplements or even consider the use of liposomal technology. It is also important that you are aware of any medications you are taking (both prescription and over-the-counter), as these may deplete vital nutrients from your body as well.
Finally, essential minerals like magnesium may help with hot flashes.
In a study published by the NIH, researchers suggested hot flashes in breast cancer patients (average age 53.5 years) were reduced when the women were given 400mg (800 mg if necessary) of magnesium. Magnesium may also help prevent depression and osteoporosis in perimenopausal and menopausal women. Foods containing magnesium include spinach, pumpkin seeds, yogurt, kefir, almonds, black beans, avocado, figs, dark chocolate and bananas.
You may also want to get tested for diabetes. The American Diabetes Association recommends you get tested every three years starting at the age of 45. If you discover you are prediabetic, this will allow you to take the necessary steps to avoid full-blown diabetes. And if you discover you are diabetic, you can immediately start taking the necessary steps to help better manage your condition.
Enjoy your healthy life!
The pH professional health care team includes recognized experts from a variety of healthcare and related disciplines, including physicians, attorneys, nutritionists, nurses and certified fitness instructors. This team also includes the members of the pH Medical Advisory Board, which constantly monitors all pH programs, products and services. To learn more about the pH Medical Advisory Board, click here.