Could mindfulness help menopause symptoms?

Could meditation boost brain functioning long-term?

New US research has found that practicing mindfulness may help menopausal women reduce stress and menopause-related symptoms such as hot flashes.

Carried out by researchers at the Mayo Clinic and set to be presented at the North American Menopause Society (NAMS) Annual Meeting 2018, taking place October 3 to 6, the new study looked at 1,744 women aged 40 to 65 years. 

The researchers found that higher mindfulness was associated with lower scores when assessing menopause symptoms, as well as lower stress scores.

In addition, a link was also found between higher menopause symptom scores and higher perceived stress, with women with higher stress levels appearing to benefit the most from the positive effect of mindfulness on menopause symptoms.

Mindfulness has become one of the biggest trends in health and well-being in recent years, gaining many fans in the Western world as well as having been the subject of an increasing number of studies. 

The practice -- which involves being aware of the present moment and our environment and is often part of a meditation or yoga routine -- has also been found to be beneficial for stress, anxiety and other women's health problems in previous studies. 

A 2016 study found that mindfulness meditation is better than relaxation sessions for building resistance to stress, as it helps to build new connections in the brain, while US research published earlier this year found that being active may be even more effective at reducing stress levels when combined with mindfulness. A variety of studies have also linked mindfulness to better sleep and better cognitive functioning in patients who have undergone breast cancer treatment.

Another study from the Mayo Clinic published back in 2012 also found that calm breathing could help ease hot flashes in 92 women who took 15 minutes a day to practice slow, deep breathing.

"Although more research is needed, this study provides a strong signal for the potential role of mindfulness in improving psychological symptoms, emotional response to menopause symptoms, and stress in women during midlife," says Dr. Richa Sood, lead author of the current study from the Mayo Clinic.

"This study provides encouraging results as it demonstrates that women may have a tool to help them control stress and menopause symptoms and improve their overall quality of life," added Dr. JoAnn Pinkerton, NAMS executive director.