Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Survey: British Women Suffer Worst Menopause Symptoms; Where Do Americans Rate?

MenopauseImage by Becky F via FlickrWomen around the world suffer from menopause, but their symptoms are far from similar -- and a new survey has found that while Americans are plagued by headaches, fatigue, hot flashes and joint pain, but the British fare the worst.

British women complain of the most severe symptoms during menopause, including upset stomachs, irritability, depression and shortness of breath, according to the study.

Researchers from the Department of Integrated Health at Westminster University polled 1,000 British women ages 45 to 55 and compared their answers to those of women from the U.S., Canada, Japan and China, reported the Daily Mail.

Participants from the U.K. scored higher than the others in 14 of the 15 symptoms, with Chinese women reporting more irritability.

Two out of 3 British women said they suffer from fatigue and more than 50 percent reported getting hot flashes. In contrast, only 1 in 20 Japanese women said they get tired and 1 in 8 said they have hot flashes.

"It seems likely that in countries where menopause is less of a problem there are good genes. But it's also clear that these countries tend to be matriarchal societies where older women are revered for their wisdom," David Sturdee, president of the International Menopause Society and a gynecologist, told the Mail.

"The best way to predict how severely a woman will be affected by the menopause is to look at her mother's experience. We will soon have a much better understanding of what genes are involved," he said.

Dr. Kent Holtorf, an endocrinology specialist with AOL Health's Medical Advisory Board, agreed that genetics are a good indicator of how women will experience menopause. But diet and the environment also have an impact.

"Heavier women will produce more estrogen, so have fewer symptoms," he told AOL Health. "It could be that United States women are heavier. ... There is certainly a genetic component, so that will play a part, and there are environmental factors."

Among those factors: Americans come into contact with more plastics and pesticides -- which contain estrogen -- than Europeans do.

"Environmentally, we're being exposed to all this estrogen," Holtorf said. "Our levels are shown to be 1,000 times of those of Europeans."

The British researchers' study was controversial in part because they concluded that only two of the symptoms reported by the participants -- hot flashes and night sweats -- actually are related to menopause.

"Only these can be classed as common menopausal symptoms internationally and clearly attributable to the menopause," said lead researcher Volker Scheid.

But Holtorf shot down that theory.

"That's crazy, that only hot flashes and night sweats are real menopause symptoms," he told AOL Health. "We see all those other symptoms (the women studied said they were feeling)."

Among the other side effects of menopause, he said, are low thyroid functions, fatigue, insomnia, body aches, headache, inability to handle stress, depression, irritability and upset stomach.

The findings were published in Climacteric, the journal of the International Menopause Society in the U.K.
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