Hispanic and African American women suffer from hot flashes significantly longer compared to non-Hispanic white and Asian women.
According to new research published in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine, how long a woman experiences hot flashes prior to- and during menopause can be linked to her race/ethnicity.
SEE ALSO: Menopause affects Latinas differently
Hot flashes can occur anytime in a woman’s life once hormones grab hold, but they are most common during menopause. The Mayo Clinic reports that hot flashes are the most common symptom of menopausal transition, occurring when hormone levels cause the body’s thermostat (the hypothalamus) to become overly sensitive.
“If youve had one, theres no mistaking it: the sudden, intense, hot feeling on your face and upper body, perhaps preceded or accompanied by a rapid heartbeat and sweating, nausea, dizziness, anxiety, headache, weakness, or a feeling of suffocation,” explain materials from breastcancer.org. “Some women experience an aura, an uneasy feeling just before the hot flash that lets them know whats coming. The flash is followed by a flush, leaving you reddened and perspiring. You can have a soaker or merely a moist upper lip. A chill can lead off the episode or be the finale.”
The frequency and duration of hot flashes varies from woman to woman, but how long those women will experience these unpleasant flushes can at least be predicted by ancestry.
The new study indicates, worse case scenario, women experience hot flashes for up to 14 years. African American women suffered the longest, with an average duration of 10.1 years. Hispanic women were not far behind, topping the list with African American women with 8.9 years. Non-Hispanic white women could expect and average hot flash duration of 6.5 years, and Asian women were at the bottom of the list with approximately 5 years.
Overall, the average woman could expect to have hot flashes for around 7 years, though duration also seemed to depend on when the hot flashes started in relation to cessation of menses.
“If you dont have hot flashes until youve stopped menses, then you wont have them as long, said professor Nancy Avis, studys first author to the New York Times. If you start later, its a shorter total duration and its shorter from the last period on.
Why hot flashes were linked to race/ethnicity remains a mystery; however, experts did find other interesting correlations in the data. Not only could hot flashes be link to heritage, they lasted longer in women who had less education, greater perceived stress, and more depression and anxiety.
“It could be genetic, diet, reproductive factors, how many children women have, Avis added.
Other experts believe the link between race/ethnicity and depression/stress is important and deserves more investigation. Minority women typically experience higher levels of stress, and because hot flashes are considered a brain phenomenon, the link may be more than just coincidental.
“Im not at all suggesting that hot flashes are manifestations of depression, but theyre both brain-related phenomena, and depression is also more common in the same groups, said Dr. Andrew Kaunitz, an obstetrician-gynecologist at the University of Florida who was not involved in the study.