This month we are focusing on hot flashes, which (thankfully) I have not yet experienced as I plod along on the pre-menopausal road. I have to admit my optimism was “perked up” for a moment when I was doing a little research this week on hot flashes. Evidently, a new study conducted by Dr. Tomi Mikkola—and associate professor of gynecology at Helsinki University Hospital in Finland—shows that there is no clear association between menopausal hot flashes and previous PMS. Good news. Maybe I will dodge the sweaty bullet?
Then, came the bad news. Mikkola concluded that women who have PMS are more likely to report other common menopause complaints, such as memory and concentration problems, the researchers found. The study was published recently in the journal Menopause.
As I know first hand and have shared with you on a number of occasions, PMS refers to a group of symptoms linked to the monthly menstrual cycle. It occurs about one to two weeks before the period starts. Symptoms of PMS include mood changes, headache, and breast tenderness, bloating, fatigue, and sleep changes and food cravings, according to background information in the study.
Estimates of how many women suffer from PMS vary greatly. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists estimates about 85 percent of women report at least one PMS symptom.
For the study, Mikkola and his colleagues included information from 120 healthy postmenopausal women who answered questions about symptoms they had experienced when they still had periods. They also answered questions about their current health and symptoms. The women were between 48 and 55 years old. None had taken hormone replacement therapy.
About 90 percent of the women said they had premenstrual symptoms earlier in their lives. About half said the symptoms hampered their ability to work well or hurt their social relations.
“We do not know why PMS is linked with memory and concentration problems at menopause,” Mikkola said. “However, it is possible that some women are more prone to experience both PMS and menopause symptoms more disturbing than others.” That, in turn, could be related to personality, coping style, self-esteem and other factors, he said.
Dr. Margery Gass, executive director of the North American Menopause Society, reviewed the findings. “I’ve always thought many of the things bothering perimenopausal women are very similar to the symptoms of PMS.” Perimenopause, which means “around menopause,” refers to the years when a woman’s body is making the transition from a regular monthly period to none.
“The study is very interesting and could help women and their [health care] providers better understand all the symptoms of menopause,” Gass said.
Her advice for women? “Not to be surprised by these symptoms and to realize they are not going to last the rest of their lives,” Gass said. “The symptoms will fade away as women get further away from their last period.”
To improve PMS symptoms, experts suggest lifestyle measures such as getting regular exercise, eating a diet with plenty of whole grains, fruits and vegetables, and getting enough sleep. Over-the-counter pain relievers may help symptoms such as breast tenderness. Taking birth control pills may help reduce symptoms, too.
Birth control pills have definitely helped me with my PMS symptoms, especially with concentration issues. Heidi has seemed to find the same relief with her natural hormone therapy. On the bright side, it sounds like my PMS will potentially save me from the “hot flash.” Time will tell, but for now—I’ll be grateful that I am still super cool. OK, maybe that is a stretch. . .
Heidi and I wish you a very HAPPY 4th of July!
SOURCES: Tomi Mikkola, M.D., associate professor, Helsinki University Central Hospital, Obstetrics and Gynecology, Helsinki, Finland; Margery Gass, M.D., executive director, North American Menopause Society; May 12, 2014, Menopause, online
Read more at: http://www.philly.com/philly/health/womenshealth/HealthDay688279_20140605_PMS_Not_Linked_to_Hot_Flashes_Later__Study_Finds.html#LDTqvzKMDKqAFlDB.99