Obesity and menopause; new study says hot flashes are associated with higher BMI

Irritating symptoms like hot flashes and night sweats cause distress in many women during menopause. Now according to a new study published Menopause by from the North American Menopause Society, it found that hot flashes are associated with a higher body mass index.

Dr. Diana Bitner, a nationally recognized menopause specialist from Spectrum Health, continues this discussion and explains what can be done to reduce symptoms.

A hot flash is the body's way of trying to cool down when it becomes too warm. During a hot flash, skin blood vessels open or dilate, which cause blood to travel to the skin and cool down the body, but makes the skin warmer. When body temperature drops two degrees, it causes a shiver, similar to a feeling when a fever breaks.

In menopause, low estrogen levels cause the body's internal temperature to be more sensitive, making women have hot flashes or night sweats at lower temperatures. If a woman carries extra weight and has a higher Body Mass Index (BMI), it acts as insulation making the body think they are warmer than they actually are. Whereas women in menopause who have an underweight BMI have the opposite effect and get cold shivers because they have less insulation.

Dr. Bitner says hot flashes can get in the way of a good day or good sleep by causing women to feel sweaty, embarrassed, or unable to concentrate. The cause of hot flashes, low estrogen, is a sign of a changing body systems and increasing risk for heart disease, bone loss, diabetes and obesity. The midlife body symptoms and changes can trigger a viscous cycle of less activity, interrupted sleep, weight gain and high cholesterol and blood sugars.

Fortunately, there are simple ways to stop the cycle before it gets out of hand: a simple checklist of healthy daily habits.  Eating a healthy diet and drinking lots of water is a good way to start losing weight and feeling normal during menopause.

If those aren't doing enough, visit the doctor to see about medication options such as an estrogen patch or other options to protect the body from the irritations that come with menopause.

Dr. Bitner's office is located at 3800 Lake Michigan Drive Northwest, Suite A. To schedule an appointment with her, call (616)-267-8225.

All information was provided by Dr. Diana Bitner and her blog. Read more.

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