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Anxiety, Obesity, Smoking May Up Hot Flashes

Studies Show Lifestyle Factors Play a Role in Menopause Symptoms

Impact of Smoking and Body Weight

The second study included women followed for 10 years as part of a larger investigation on bone health. The women were between the ages of 24 and 44 when they were recruited for the trial in 1992, and they were followed through the transition to menopause.

Researchers from the University of Michigan reported that current smokers and women who were overweight were far more likely to experience bothersome hot flashes as they approached menopause as nonsmoking women and women of normal weight.

Current smokers reported nearly twice as many severe hot flashes as women who did not smoke. And women who were overweight reported seven times more hot flashes that they considered "very bothersome" as women who were not overweight.

The study is not the first to link smoking and obesity to hot flashes. University of Maryland researchers reported in 2003 that women who smoked or were obese had earlier and more severe hot flashes than nonsmoking women of normal weight.

Smokers in this study typically had their first hot flashes two to five years earlier than women who never smoked. Obese women were found to be twice as likely as women of normal weight to have earlier, daily, and more severe hot flashes.

The link between hot flashes and body weight is not clear, says Schiff. "An increase in body weight can result in a higher core body temperature and, possible more hot flashes. This may be offset by increase in estrogen coming from adipose [fat] tissue which would, in turn, decrease the hot flash risk."

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