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Hot flashes and cultural influence

Menopausal symptoms are the same but different for women around the world. Often the severity of symptoms differs among various ethnic groups. Does this explain why doctors in some countries report higher incidences of menopause health issues? Does race or ethnicity play a role in how menopause affects women?

Researchers are learning more about menopause and the differences and similarities amongst women on an international scale. While women everywhere who live long enough will experience menopause the reported symptoms and associated quality of life indices expose some interesting findings. Social attitudes towards women, aging, and menopause play a significant role in menopause around the world.

A recent New York University study examined menopausal characteristics and related health issues for women on a global scale. An international survey was part of a bigger research program aimed at discovering how successful menopause treatments were in helping women deal with troublesome symptoms.

POMMSIS, a Post Marketing Menopausal Symptoms International Survey focused on women living in four countries: India, Norway, Lithuania, and Spain. To understand the possible links between ethnicity, the 2000 women taking part in this survey were further categorized into three races: Indian, North-European, and Mediterranean-European. As a result, the outcomes were based on both geographical and ethnical criteria.

For five weeks, the women filled out a daily hot flash diary to record the number and severity of their hot flashes. These notes would help researchers learn more about the effects of the controlled drug study for menopause treatments. Some of the findings indicated that different attitudes and lifestyle choices are important to understand menopause.

The main differences in both menopause symptoms and the success rate of menopause treatments centred on related health issues. In particular, weight measurements and smoking habits were key factors. Additionally, attitudes towards hot flashes and the menopause transition were important.

*Both North-European and Mediterranean-European women reported heavier weight measurements than did Indian women. Obesity is directly linked to a woman’s overall health during and beyond menopause.

*The European women also reported higher smoking rates than did Indian women.

*Smoking is linked to several health issues including heart disease and high blood pressure, which in turn impact menopausal health.

*Hot flashes, and their impact on daily life, differ between women. There may be possible links based on climate. Women in Norway and Lithuania reported greater challenges with hot flashes than did women in Spain or India. Perhaps the body’s natural regulatory thermostat is under greater stress in colder climates.

*As the treatment progressed, women in all the European countries indicated a greater improvement in quality of life once the hot flashes subsided. Hot flashes and quality of life were perceived as less connected in India. More women in developed nations tend to report hot flashes compared to women in the developing world, although some doctors predict that these numbers may level out in the coming decades.

Researchers concluded that menopause symptoms are fairly standard for women around the world. Yet the severity and anxiety caused by those symptoms varies from country to country; women of different races report varying levels of menopausal discomfort. This study helps women everywhere, especially in the Western nations; understand that menopause is not just a singular and isolated life event. It is a life transition that interconnects with the physical, mental, and social well-being of women and the societies that they live in.

“Menopausal Symptoms and Femarelle: Global Complaints of a Cultural, Geographical, Race-Dependent Experience?” Nachtigall, Lila (US) NYU School of Medicine as presented at the 13th World Congress on Menopause, Rome, 2011.

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