Tuesday, March 22, 2011

MINDFULNESS AND MENOPAUSE

Women with severe hot flushes (more commonly known in the USA as hot flashes, or night sweats if they happen at night) said their quality of life improved after taking mindfulness classes that included meditation and stretching exercises, according to a new study led by Dr James Carmody (pictured opposite).

The findings also suggest that such classes could help improve sleep quality, stress and anxiety in women during menopause.

All of this would be very good news for Bree Van de Kamp from Desperate Housewives. See this YouTube clip:


In 2002, the Women's Health Initiative study found that the hormone therapy used to relieve menopause symptoms increased women's risk of stroke and breast and ovarian cancers slightly. Since then, women who suffer from hot flashes and night sweats during menopause have been left with few ways to get relief.

"There's a broad range of attitudes about hot flashes and how they should be treated," Dr Ellen Freeman, a menopause expert at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine in Philadelphia.

"There are certainly many, many women who don't want to take hormones ... and don't want to take other drugs either," said Freeman, who was not involved in the current study. Mindfulness, on the other hand, "may be something that they find very acceptable."

Women with frequent and severe hot flushes often also complain about anxiety and stress related to their symptoms, as well as trouble sleeping.

Researchers based at the University of Massachusetts Medical School in Worcester wanted to see if a teaching such women mindfulness, which has been shown to relieve stress, might help. They enrolled 110 women, nearly all of them white, with at least 5 or more bothersome hot flushes each day.

The women were randomly assigned to 2 groups. In one, participants went to weekly 2.5-hour mindfulness classes focusing on body awareness, meditation, and stretching. They also received CDs to guide them through mindfulness activities on their own on the days when they didn't have classes. Women in the second group, used for comparison, were put on a waiting list and had no mindfulness classes during the study, which lasted 8 weeks.

At the beginning of the study, the women had about 8 hot flushes a day and 3 night sweats each night, and were somewhere between "moderately" and "extremely" bothered by their symptoms, according to questionnaire responses. They also reported trouble sleeping and had anxiety and stress scores considered above the normal range in healthy people.

By the time they finished the mindfulness program, the women were less stressed and anxious and were no longer considered out of the normal range for those symptoms. They also slept better, rated their quality of life higher, and were less bothered by their hot flushes - an improvement that was still clear 3 months after women had completed the classes. At that point, the women were between "slightly" to "moderately" bothered by their hot flushes.

The women on the waitlist also got a little better, but didn't see as much improvement as those taking mindfulness classes.

Women in both groups had improvements in the intensity of their hot flushes, but women taking mindfulness classes did not improve any more than those on the waiting list according to the findings, which are published in the journal Menopause.

At the end of the program there was also no difference between the 2 groups in the frequency of their hot flushes. That suggests that these classes may be most useful for helping women cope with their hot flushes, rather than getting rid of the hot flushes themselves, the authors said.

The program presents a possibility for women with bothersome hot flushes who don't want to take hormones or medications such as antidepressants or over-the-counter treatments.

Here is a short YouTube clip attesting to the benefits during menopause of a stress relief program which includes meditation.

NOTE. This blog sets out a simple form of mindfulness sitting meditation.


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1 comment:

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