Stroke, diabetes, high blood pressure, asthma and other health conditions are more common among black women than white women. Unfortunately, when it comes time for menopause, you’re also likely to have more intense symptoms than your white peers. Genetic and environmental factors likely play a role, experts say. But you don’t have to let menopause bring you down. Here’s what to know about the research behind why menopause is worse for black women—and what you can do about it.
What the Research Says
Studies have found that black women are more likely to experience symptoms related to their menopause. These symptoms include hot flashes, dizziness, poor coordination and/or clumsiness, urine leakage and vaginal dryness. What’s worse, these symptoms, particularly hot flashes, increase with age in black women, while white women often report a decrease in menopausal symptoms with age.
African American women who experience menopause resulting from hysterectomy experience more hot flashes than white women, regardless of weight or whether the women used hormone replacement therapy. Psychological symptoms seem to not vary based on race.
Somatic symptoms, which include swelling or weight gain, appetite changes, breast tenderness, aches, and headaches are also not affected by race but tend to be worse among women ages 45 to 47. Other factors that increase the rate of somatic symptoms include poor physical health and longer menstrual cycle lengths.
Treat Your Symptoms
While menopause symptoms may worse for black women, you can help control your symptoms and feel better. Options include:
- Hormone Therapy: During menopause, your body makes less of the hormones estrogen and progesterone. These lower hormone levels can lead to night sweats, hot flashes, vaginal dryness and bone thinning. Hormone therapy, the use of hormone medication used during and after menopause, is successful for some women. Talk to your doctor about the side effects and risks to find out if this is the right approach for you.
- Natural Therapies: Some women find success using natural remedies, such as herbs or other plant products to relieve their symptoms. There is some anecdotal evidence that soy products, such as tofu, tempeh, soy milk and soy nuts may help with hot flashes. Soy contains phytoestrogens, substances that may act like the estrogen your body makes on its own but is lower during menopause. Black cohosh, wild yam, dong quai, and valerian root, either in herb form or as a pill or cream, may also help with hot flashes.
Make sure to discuss any natural or herbal products with your doctor before taking them. It’s also important to tell your doctor about all medicines you are taking. Some plant products or foods can be harmful when combined with certain medications.
The use of herbs and other natural remedies should be thoroughly discussed with your doctor before starting.