Obesity Observed to Worsen Menopause Symptoms

High body mass index found to increase severity of hot flashes.

During menopause, the body stops making estrogen, which causes the onset of hot flashes and night sweats due to a downturn in hormone production. For some women, this change may be mildly inconvenient, but others may experience severe symptoms that can impact work, social, and home life. Some studies have linked an increase of vasomotor symptoms (VMS) to weight gain during menopause, which results from a lack of estrogen.

A new study published by Menopause suggests that higher body mass index (BMI) can result in a higher frequency of hot flashes.

Included in the study were 749 women aged 45 to 60 living in Brazil. The investigators discovered that patients with obesity experienced more severe hot flashes, which stopped certain activities and impacted work efficiency.

The authors believe that their findings support the thermoregulatory theory, which suggests that BMI is linked to VMS, since body fat acts as an insulator and inhibits heat distribution, according to the study.

The association between high BMI and other menopause-related symptoms, such as joint and muscular pain and urinary problems, were confirmed, the authors wrote.

These findings suggest that severe menopausal symptoms may be avoided with weight loss, which can be achieved through diet and exercise.

These results highlight the importance of preventing weight gain in women experiencing menopause. The authors also note that novel approaches must be developed to reduce the effect of obesity in women experiencing menopause, according to the study.

"This study supports earlier studies that found that women who are heavier tend to have more hot flashes, particularly close to menopause," said JoAnn Pinkerton, MD, executive director of The North American Menopause Society. "In some studies, but not all, weight loss and exercise have both been shown to reduce hot flashes in women who are obese, thus giving women even more reason to create a healthier lifestyle for themselves.”