How to Deal With Hot Flashes - For Women

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No matter how disruptive hot flashes seem to be, experts believe that they do not signify a medical problem. They are rather a normal response to natural hormonal changes in the body and thus in women one of the most common symptoms of menopause. Hot flashes usually subside after the first or second year following menopause, when estrogen levels stabilize at a low level. However till the time that happens, here are a few tips on how you can manage and deal with this uncomfortable condition.

Know the condition

A hot flash is a sudden feeling of heat in the upper part or all of your body and this constitutes one of the most common symptoms of female menopause but other conditions like perimenopause and pregnancy can also cause them. Other rare causes of hot flashes can include hyperthyroidism and some types of cancer. Menopause marks the end of the fertile period in a woman’s life and is typically diagnosed twelve months after she ceases menstruating. Along with hot flashes, some of the most usual complaints insomnia, mood swings, weight gain and stress. In case of hot flashes Red blotches may appear on the chest, back, and arms of a woman going through this and she may alternate between heavy sweating and cold shivering. Most hot flashes last between 30 seconds and 10 minutes; they can be mild or strong enough to wake someone up from sleep, in which case they are known as night sweats. Researchers are yet to fully understand the cause of hot flashes but suspect that it has to do with changing estrogen levels in a woman’s body.

Lifestyle changes

If you are experiencing mild or infrequent hot flashes, there is no need to treat them. But it's common to look for relief of moderate to severe or frequent hot flashes that disrupt your daily life and sleep. Following a healthy lifestyle can make a big difference in not only preventing or at least reducing the severity of hot flashes but how your body handles the overall transition to menopause. In order to minimize attacks of hot flashes, limit your intake of alcohol and above all, do not smoke or use other forms of tobacco. Drink cold beverages rather than hot ones, especially those containing caffeine. Eat smaller, more frequent meals to avoid the heat generated by digesting large amounts of food. Consume plenty of low-fat, high-fiber foods. Finally get regular physical exercise. Living a healthy lifestyle may not only reduce the incidence and/or severity of hot flashes, they may reduce the risk of heart disease and osteoporosis.

Adjust your dressing habits and environment so that it is possible for you to stay cool. Allow for cross-ventilation of rooms, stay in open airy spaces or use a fan. Dress in layers, even on the coldest days, so you can remove clothes as needed. Wear natural fabrics, such as cotton and silk which allow for passage of air and better evaporation of sweat, thus leading to faster cooling. If you are prone to night sweats, wear cotton night clothes and use cotton bed linens besides sleeping with fewer blankets.

You lose more fluid when you sweat, so it is important to stay hydrated if you frequently experience hot flashes. Keep cold water on hand and sip ice water at the onset of the hot flash to cool down your insides and counter the feelings of the heat. Also having a thermos of ice water and an ice pack on your bedside table may help if you suffer from night sweats.

Calm the mind

The body-mind connection is a powerful element of hot flashes and emotional symptoms which is why stress can raise the discomfort level in hot flashes several notches higher. So when you feel a hot flash coming on, instead of getting worked up out about it take deep, slow breaths from your abdomen. Rhythmic breathing exercises like paced respiration which help you meditate and relax, may reduce your hot flashes.

Watch your weight

When the body is coping with fluctuating hormones, it is more important than ever to maintain the right body weight. If you strive to lose too much weight you may be in trouble because being a shade on the plump side is actually ideal at menopause. Women who are exceptionally thin seem to suffer more during menopause, not only from hot flashes but from other estrogen-related symptoms as well, because body fat is the prime site of postmenopausal estrogen production. On the other hand, carrying around too much weight will open you up to the risk of uterine and breast cancer from the constant flow of estrogen being produced by body fat, besides increasing chances of cardiovascular trouble.

Treatment options

Sometimes women suffering from moderate to severe hot flashes, are prescribed drugs by their doctors. Treatments that may either reduce or stop moderate to severe hot flashes include short-term, low-dose hormone therapy, certain antidepressant and blood pressure medicines. Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) can reduce or stop hot flashes and other perimenopausal symptoms by raising your body's estrogen level. Sometimes doctors may prescribe Estrogen-progestin birth control pills before the onset of menopause to reduce or stop hot flashes and other perimenopausal symptoms by evening out fluctuating hormones. Usually doctors start by prescribing the lowest dose needed for the shortest possible time and advise patients to have regular checkups. This is because HRT carries with it a higher risk of blood clots, stroke, heart disease, breast cancer, ovarian cancer, and dementia in a small number of women. And HRT users who are ten or more years past menopause are also at higher risk for heart disease. If you have a history of cardiovascular disease or breast cancer, avoid using estrogen for hot-flash relief.

Antidepressant medicine can reduce the number and severity of hot flashes by improving the brain's use of serotonin, which helps regulate body temperature. Like in any kind of medication, this too carries possibility of side effects. However this type of medicine is a good choice if hot flashes, irritability, or mood swings are your only perimenopausal symptom. Another kind of drug - Gabapentin, an antiseizure medicine, may lower the number of hot flashes each day and the intensity of hot flashes.

Alternative therapy

Many women are turning to natural products to help with managing hot flashes and night sweats. The herb black cohosh is believed to help reduce intensity or frequency of hot flashes but should not be taken if you have a liver disorder. Some women eat and drink a lot of soy to even out hot flashes and other perimenopausal symptoms. Its use is based on the idea that soy contains compounds called isoflavones which have some small oestrogen-like effect. Among supplements flax seed oil along with mineral magnesium, are thought to make the condition less uncomfortable. Magnesium is not only good for bones, but it helps prevent heart disease and can keep one calm and help you sleep throughout the night. However before you take natural products or supplements; it’s important that you mention this to your doctor and pharmacist whenever you discuss your health and medications. Not all natural products are approved by FDA and it is essential to keep your healthcare provider updated on you are taking. Also some products can interfere with medications (over-the-counter and prescription) and they can also have an effect on some illnesses.

Finally if despite leading a healthy lifestyle and taking prescribed medication, you continue to have problems with hot flashes, discuss them with your doctor at your next regularly scheduled appointment. If your hot flashes are so severe that they are disrupting your sleep or affecting another area of your life, call your doctor to discuss what more can be done.