Hot flashes are the bane existence for women going through menopause, and are more frequent and more severe in those with a high body mass index (BMI), according to new research — which seems like a cruel trick of nature, since menopause itself is associated with weight gain.
The new study, published in Menopause, the journal of the North American Menopause Society (NAMS), looked at the records of 749 Brazilian women between the ages of 45 and 60 and found that those with higher BMI scores reported worse hot flash symptoms than those with lower ones. The women with higher BMIs also reported more joint and muscle pain and more urinary tract problems.
While the exact reasons for weight gain during menopause are still being studied, the theory behind why a higher BMI is associated with more frequent hot flashes is surprisingly simple: Body fat acts as an insulator, making it more difficult to regulate body temperature.
According to the NAMS, the average weight gain in perimenopausal women is five pounds, but 20 percent of women gain 10 pounds or more. The weight gain seems to be associated with declining levels of estrogen, which can trigger increased appetite as well as a shift in fat storage from the upper thighs and hips to the abdominal region.
The new findings “reinforce the importance of a multifaceted approach” to weight control in menopausal women, as well as new strategies to emphasize the health benefits of not letting those pounds creep on, the study said.