Most people associate menopause with middle age, but, according to a new study by the Mayo Clinic published in the Journal of the North American Menopause Society, the typical symptoms of menopause such as hot flashes and night sweats can last beyond menopause into the 60s, 70s and 80s.
During the study, Mayo Clinic researchers collected data regarding menopause from nearly 5,000 women over the age of 60 who sought medical care for managing their menopause symptoms.
This number is significant as it may be representative of an unknown medical problem - and need - for women over 60.
Women in the study over the age of 60 who reported having moderate to severe hot flashes reported being married or in committed relationships. They were less likely to report their health as excellent and often experienced induced or surgical menopause, which occurs when both ovaries are removed. Women who underwent induced or surgical menopause also were more likely to have hot flashes beyond age 60.
The study also found that caffeine was linked to an increased risk of hot flashes in women over the age of 70.
The Mayo Clinic researchers also found that women who used hormone replacement therapy were less likely to experience hot flashes and night sweats, which is not surprising considering hormone replacement therapy is designed to reduce the uncomfortable symptoms of menopause.
"Many women choose to undergo hormone therapy to stop or lessen the uncomfortable symptoms of menopause," said Dr. Mona Alqulali, a Bettendorf, Iowa, OB-GYN.
Women are said to be in menopause when they go without a menstrual cycle for 12 consecutive months.
Although menopause can begin before age 40, most women in the United States start experiencing menopausal symptoms between 48 and 55 years of age, and as a result, start their hormone replacement therapy around that time.
Menopause, on average, lasts four years but can last longer for some women, as shown by the Mayo Clinic study.
"There is no specific timeline for menopause. When it starts, how long it lasts, the severity of symptoms and when it ends varies from woman to woman," Alqulali said.
While starting hormone therapy early has its benefits, there is no definitive time to stop taking hormones.
Scientists at the Northern American Menopause Society, the Endocrine Society and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists all advise against stopping hormone replacement therapy for menopausal symptoms based solely on age.
Instead, they suggest that women in menopause discuss their symptoms with their doctor to determine when to stop taking hormone therapy.
"If a patient is experiencing menopausal symptoms like hot flashes past age 55, they should continue to talk to their provider about treating those symptoms," Alqulali said.
Menopausal symptoms can often negatively impact a woman's quality of life.
"Hot flashes, night sweats and insomnia are common symptoms, and they often interrupt sleep, which leads to mood swings and fatigue," Alqulali said.
In addition to these symptoms, menopause also brings other changes to the body, such as changes in hair and skin quality, vaginal dryness, irregular menstruation and weight gain. Menopausal women are also at risk for more severe health problems like depression, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and the development of heart disease.
Not all women are good candidates for hormone replacement therapy. Women who have mild symptoms, who are at risk of developing osteoporosis or those who have had breast cancer, heart disease or blood clots or have a family history of these conditions should not undergo hormone replacement therapy.
To learn more about hormone replacement therapy and how Infinity Medical Group can help, make an appointment today by calling 888-716-0559.
Mayo Clinic. "News flash about hot flashes: They can last longer than you think." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 31 May 2018.