Hot flashes are a well-known sign of menopause, though often once a woman experiences them, she’s probably already had other symptoms of onset without knowing it.
What Causes Hot Flashes?
Hot flashes are recurrent episodes of flushing and the feeling of heat, mostly in the upper body and face. Hot flashes can vary in intensity and duration.
Along with the accompanying night sweats, hot flashes are known as vasomotor symptoms in the medical community. Hot flashes, like other symptoms associated with menopause, are caused by the decrease in reproductive hormones like estrogen.
How Long Do Hot Flashes Last?
About 75% of women say they experience symptoms like hot flashes during the perimenopausal and menopausal years. When symptoms start and how long they last vary from woman to woman, but typically hot flashes peak during perimenopause and last between six months and two years. While hot flashes tend to decrease in frequency and intensity later in menopause, they can last up to 10 years for an unlucky few, with some women in their 70s still reporting symptoms.
So, now that you know you’re statistically likely to experience hot flashes (if you haven’t already), what can you do to alleviate this unpleasant symptom?
Tips for Dealing with Hot Flashes
- Avoid Hot Things
This is probably one of the most obvious ways to prevent hot flashes. If you’re having hot flashes, you probably want to avoid staying out in hot weather, taking hot showers, eating spicy food, and keeping your home (especially the bedroom) too warm. Taking cool showers and bumping the thermostat down a few degrees may provide some relief.
- Reduce Caffeine and Alcohol Intake
You might not need to give up caffeine altogether, but you should limit the amount you consume and stop intake several hours before you go to bed. A common recommendation is only having one cup of coffee or caffeinated tea per day and not having any caffeine for five hours before you plan to go to bed.
Alcohol is another thing that can contribute to hot flashes. Not everyone is affected by alcohol in this way, but try to limit your intake and see if it makes a difference.
- Quit Smoking
This is one tip you will find on pretty much every list of healthy suggestions to deal with almost any condition. Smoking is not only linked to a number of non-menopause related issues (respiratory and cardiovascular conditions being most common) but giving up cigarettes will also decrease your chances of having hot flashes. So, if you were looking for yet another reason to quit, curbing the unpleasant symptoms of perimenopause and menopause is a good one.
- Avoid Stress
Hot flashes are more frequent and worse for women who experience higher levels of stress and anxiety according to a six-year study detailed in The Journal of The North American Menopause Society. The study found that women who are most stressed are five times more likely to experience hot flashes than women with normal stress levels.
There are a number of methods for stress reduction that may be effective in dealing with hot flashes. Some of these things are obviously easier said than done, but adjusting your lifestyle can make a big difference when it comes to stress. Many people find that practicing mindfulness and/or meditation one or more times a day can aid in stress reduction. These exercises can also be useful for getting more and higher quality sleep, which is another great way to reduce stress.
Identifying the source of your stress can also be helpful when deciding how to treat it. The cause may be obvious or you might need to think about it a bit or discuss it with a doctor or therapist.
- Decrease Refined Sugar Consumption
A balanced diet is important for overall health and wellness and it is something important to keep in mind when managing perimenopausal and menopausal symptoms like hot flashes. It has been shown that the more refined sugar you consume, the more likely you may be to have hot flashes.
Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are a category of antidepressants often used to treat the symptoms of perimenopause and menopause, including hot flashes. As their name suggests, SSRIs affect the way your brain handles serotonin, which is a neurotransmitter chemical responsible for a variety and physiological and mental processes. Doctors have found that this type of antidepressant can help decrease hot flashes and can be used in place of or with other therapies like hormone replacement therapy.
- Hormone Replacement Therapy
Because hot flashes are caused by the reduction in reproductive hormones during perimenopause and menopause, hormone replacement therapy is often a recommended treatment. You should find a menopause specialist to determine what kind of hormone replacement therapy you should use.
Dr. Karen Clark has been spent her career giving the best gynecological care possible to patients in and around Chapel Hill. As an expert in reproductive endocrinology, Dr. Clark will work with you to come up with the best treatments to help you manage all of the changes menopause brings. Call 919-960-2720 to schedule an appointment or request an appointment online.