You may have inherited your mother’s green eyes or your grandmother’s smile, but will you also get hot flashes as they did? If you are looking for a simple yes or no answer, you won’t get it. But we will tell you what researchers and observers have discovered thus far.
Hot flashes and menopause
Hot flashes are the most common symptom of perimenopause and menopause, with more than 66 percent of women in North America experiencing them. Twenty percent never get them, and the rest experience them for a concise period of time.
Hot flashes (and their cousin night sweats) occur, on average, for about 7 years. However, some women have them for 11 years or longer.
Like mother, like daughter?
Researchers say that when it comes to the start of menopause, daughters can likely expect to follow their mother’s lead. According to the North American Menopause Society, “Typically, women reach menopause around the same age as their mothers and sisters.”
When it comes to hot flashes, the issue is a bit murkier. However, one study from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), has cast an interesting light on the question of who gets hot flashes.
The scientists identified gene variants that impact a brain receptor that regulates how much estrogen is released. Women who have these variants are genetically predisposed to experience hot flashes before or during menopause.
To conclude, the scientists investigated more than 11 million gene variants and found 14 to be associated with hot flashes. The receptor that is affected regulates estrogen release. Dr. Carolyn Cradall, the principal investigator and professor of medicine in the general internal medicine and health services research division at UCLA, noted these findings held for European-American, Hispanic-American, and African-American women. However, the study did not prove that the gene variants caused hot flashes.
If one’s mother or grandmother had the gene variants associated with a greater risk of hot flashes, then a daughter who inherited the variants would likely have the same risk. This association, however, has not yet been investigated.
A more definitive answer, at least for the time being, comes from Margery L.S. Gass, MD, executive director of the North American Menopause Society. She notes that when it comes to symptoms of menopause, genetics are not an especially strong indicator or predictor. “Just because your mother had a difficult experience, that does not mean that you necessarily will.”
In fact, your lifestyle is significant in determining how your journey through perimenopause and menopause will be. You can help manage your chances of having hot flashes and your experience with them by exercising regularly, maintaining a healthy weight, following an anti-inflammatory diet, taking natural supplements (black cohosh, genistein, and vitamin E have demonstrated some benefits), and avoiding alcohol, caffeine, and spicy foods.
Do you inherit the likelihood of experiencing hot flashes from your mother or grandmother? Perhaps. Genetic variants appear to play a role, and so does lifestyle. Unfortunately, you have no control over the former, but you can modify your diet and other activities to help reduce or ward off hot flashes.