For many women, hot flashes are sign that menopause has begun. For some they begin in perimenopause, which usually starts in their 40s. For others hot flashes don’t begin until shortly after her last period, when estrogen levels drop significantly. They can last anywhere between three and five years and are usually most severe during the year following the last menstrual cycle.
Hot flashes are your body’s reaction to a change in temperature. While researchers aren’t sure of the reasons why, it seems a woman’s body’s temperature lowers during menopause. Although hot flashes make you feel warmer, they are actually your body’s way of lowering your body temperature.
There are a number of medications that can decrease the frequency and intensity of hot flashes. Hormone replacement therapy is effective in reducing hot flashes, however, many women either don’t want to take hormones or, for health reasons, cannot take them. Other medications, such as antidepressants or some antihypertensives help some women.
There are also over-the-counter medications and supplements that are marketed as a relief from hot flashes. Black cohosh and other products that contain plant estrogen are found to help in some women. Others find that increasing soy or flaxseed in their diet helps. But, according to Harvard Health, in studies on some of these different products, about one-fourth of all women who received a placebo indicated relief from their hot flashes. While some studies have found these products helpful, others have not.
There are some ways you can help manage your hot flashes:
Know your triggers. Some common triggers for hot flashes include being out in the hot sun or in a warm air environment, eating spicy food, drinking hot beverages, drinking alcohol, caffeine and stress. Keep track of what foods and beverages you consumed and where you were prior to your hot flashes. This can help you determine your triggers. Avoiding those triggers can help reduce your hot flashes.
Dress in layers so you can remove clothing when in a warm environment. As the temperature rises during the day, you can shed layers to help regulate your body temperature.
Wear loose fitting clothes. Look for clothes that allow air to circulate and not trap the heat close to your body. You might also consider shopping in sport stores for clothes that are made of fabrics that wick perspiration away from your skin.
When possible, set the thermostat to meet your needs. Keep the heat in your home a little lower than normal and use air conditioning during the summer to keep your home cool. Hot flashes often occur at night so you might find lowering the temperature in your home over night helps you sleep better. You may find that you need to adjust the temperature periodically as your hot flashes ebb and flow.
Avoid hot spots. When you are outside, look for shady, cooler areas. Lower the temperature of your shower to warm rather than hot. Avoid using hot tubs. Keep the temperature around you as consistent as possible.
Use deep breathing exercises. Harvard Health indicates that “paced respiration” has been found to cut the frequency of hot flashes in half. Take deep breaths in an out, making sure your abdomen expands and contracts during your breathing. Aim for about six to eight breaths per minute. Doing this exercise 15 minutes per day might help cut down your hot flashes. You can also use this exercise when you feel a hot flash starting to cut down the intensity and length of your hot flash.
Stay hydrated. Drinking plenty of water helps cool your body down, eliminating your body reacting with a hot flash.
Use cool compresses. Placing a cool compress on your neck might help cool down your body temperature or at least relieve the discomfort of a hot flash. Some people find placing a frozen lunch pack under their pillow allows them to flip the pillow and feel more comfortable during nighttime hot flashes.
If, no matter what you do, your hot flashes are interfering with your life or stopping you from getting a good night’s sleep, you might benefit from talking to your doctor about this and other symptoms of menopause you are experiencing.
“Dealing with the Symptoms of Menopause,” Date Unknown, Staff Writer, Harvard Health
Published On: October 08, 2014