What should menopausal women do to alleviate the agony of hot flashes, as many studies have shown that hormone therapy increases risk for breast cancer, heart attacks and strokes?
Mindfulness meditation, the mind-body therapy that refers to a state of awareness, consciousness, and immediacy, not only de-clutters the mind and helps attain inner peace but also reduces the severity of menopausal hot flashes, claims a new study.
The researchers found that mindfulness training that included meditation and stretching exercises not only enhanced sleep quality but also helped ease stress and anxiety in women during menopause.
Dr. Ellen Freeman, a menopause expert at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, Philadelphia, stated, “There’s a broad range of attitudes about hot flashes and how they should be treated. There are certainly many, many women who don’t want to take hormones … and don’t want to take other drugs either.
According to her, mindfulness on the other hand, “may be something that they find very acceptable.”
Trials to assess effect of meditation
In order to determine whether mindfulness training helps ease hot flashes in healthy women, the researchers conducted a eight-week trial.
They enrolled a group of 110 women, mostly white with at least five bothersome hot flashes a day.
The women were split into two groups. One group met for a 2.5-hour weekly meditating session that involved stretching, sitting quietly and simply processing whatever goes through the mind without reacting or becoming involved with thoughts, memories, worries, or images.
In addition, the participants were given audio recordings to practice meditation at home. In contrast the women in the control had no classes on mindfulness meditation.
For the study purpose, the participants were asked to record the frequency and severity of their hot flashes.
The average frequency of hot flashes reported at the onset of the study was about eight per day and three night sweats each night. The volunteers were “moderately” or “extremely” troubled by their symptoms.
They also reportedly had erratic sleep and their anxiety and stress scores were deemed higher than the normal range in healthy people.
Outcome of the study
An evaluation after eight weeks revealed that meditation helped ease stress and anxiety. Women slept better and exhibited increased levels of well being.
They were less troubled by their hot flashes and improvement persisted for over three months after they had completed the classes. The women rated their hot flashes botheration between slight to moderate.
However, there was no difference in the frequency of hot flashes in the two groups, suggesting that mindfulness meditation is technique that helps reduce the severity of hot flashes rather than eliminating them completely.
According to experts, mindfulness training provides women, especially those who want to avoid popping pills a good option for treating moderate to severe hot flashes that disrupt their quality of life.
A shorter trial in progress
The researchers are currently testing the impact of a four-week meditation training on bringing relief to menopausal women.
Lead researcher, Dr. James Carmody at the University of Massachusetts Medical School in Worcester, stated, “We want to see if a shorter program would have the same effects.
“Anything that makes it more accessible for women.”
The findings of the study are published in the journal ‘Menopause.’