Hot flashes are one of the most common symptoms experienced by women around the time of menopause. In fact, approximately half of all perimenopausal women and 75 to 85% of all postmenopausal women experience hot flashes.
While the onset, duration, frequency and severity of hot flashes varies greatly between women, hot flashes often begin one or two years before a woman's last period and can last anywhere from six months to fifteen years.
Hot flashes are caused by hormonal fluctuations that occur during the menopausal transition. Fortunately, treating this underlying hormonal imbalance naturally and making simple lifestyle changes can significantly help a woman manage this symptom.
Continue reading to learn more about hot flashes, their symptoms, causes, management, and treatment.
About Hot Flashes
What Are Hot Flashes?
Hot flashes, also called "hot flushes," are a vasomotor symptom of menopause. This means that hot flashes can disrupt the normal functioning of the vascular and motor systems of the body, causing intense heat, perspiration, and other symptoms ranging from mild to severe.
The duration and frequency of hot flashes varies from woman to woman. Hot flashes can occur at any time of the day or night, though they are often called night sweats when they happen during sleeping hours.
Women with menopause-related hot flashes will usually experience a consistent and unique pattern of symptoms. Some women experience mild symptoms of hot flashes infrequently, while others experience more severe symptoms multiple times each day.
Signs and Symptoms of Hot Flashes
The following are the most common signs and symptoms of hot flashes:
• Sudden, intense feelings of heat. In the face, neck, arms, torso, and sometimes the whole body.
• Rapid or irregular heartbeat and pulse. Including heart palpitations.
• Flushing. Or reddened face and neck, particularly in lighter skinned women.
• Perspiration. Ranging from mild to profuse.
• Cold chills. Often follow hot flashes, though sometimes women only experience the chill.
• Sleep disturbances. Are characteristic of hot flashes that occur at night, which are also known as night sweats. Estrogen levels are often lowest at night, which is why women often experience nocturnal hot flashes.
• Other Symptoms. Nausea, Dizziness, Anxiety, and Headaches.
While each woman will experience the symptoms of hot flashes in a pattern that is unique to her, some women are at a greater risk for more severe and prolonged hot flashes. Women taking the breast cancer treatment drug tamoxifen may experience more severe and prolonged hot flashes. Additionally, women who go through rapid menopause will often experience hot flashes more severely and for a longer duration.
Click on the following link to read more information about hot flashes, or continue reading below to learn more about the causes of hot flashes.
Describes the common symptoms and feelings that are brought on by a menopausal hot flash, such as a quick burst of heat, flushed skin, and rapid heartbeat. Provides suggestions on how to manage hot flashes, including lifestyle modifications, herbal treatments, and drugs. Recommends beginning with lifestyle changes because they carry the lowest risk and then trying other methods if needed.
Explains how long an individual hot flush lasts and also how many years the average woman can expect to experience regular hot flushes. One hot flash usually lasts about thirty seconds, but can last up to ten minutes. The number of years that a woman suffers from hot flushes varies, but can be as long as fifteen years.
Causes of Hot Flashes
The most common cause of hot flashes in menopausal women is changing levels of estrogen in the body. Diminished amounts of estrogen have a direct effect on the hypothalamus, the part of the brain responsible for controlling appetite, sex hormones, sleep, and body temperature.
Lowered levels of estrogen confuse the hypothalamus, causing it to inaccurately sense that the body is overheating. This provokes an internal chain of reactions that women experience as "hot flashes".
In addition to these completely normal hormonal causes of hot flashes, other medical conditions can also cause hot flashes.
Other Causes of Hot Flashes
Certain medical conditions and medications can sometimes cause a person to experience hot flashes. For this reason, women for whom menopause is unlikely or women with other unexplained symptoms should consult a doctor to rule out these other potential causes of hot flashes.
Diseases that can cause hot flashes:
• Panic disorder
• Thyroid disease
Medications that can cause hot flashes:
• Raloxifene (osteoporosis drug)
• Tamoxifen (cancer drug)
• Gonadotropin analogues (nafarelin)
Click on the following link to read more information about the causes of hot flashes, or keep reading to learn about managing hot flashes through simple measures, including the avoidance of common hot flash triggers.
Discusses the connection between diet and hot flashes, suggesting that hot flashes may be caused by consuming certain types of food. Lists coffee, tea, chocolate, spicy food, citrus fruits, and processed sugars as causes of hot flashes, and suggests dietary changes as a way to manage this troublesome menopausal symptom.
Examines the reason why hot flashes are more common in older and middle-aged women. Cites menopause and its hormonal imbalance as a top reason for hot flashes later in a woman’s life, but they can also be a symptom of other conditions. Also lists some ways that women can control hot flashes, including through regular exercise and a healthy diet.
Managing Hot Flashes
Thankfully, women who experience hot flashes during menopause have several ways to manage hot flashes in order to reduce their frequency and/or severity. In many cases, simple steps can be taken throughout the day to prevent or allay hot flashes. Also, avoiding the common triggers of hot flashes is another important way to combat them.
Simple daily changes that can greatly help a menopausal woman manage hot flashes include:
• Considering air conditioning, ceiling and floor fans, and even small personal handheld fans.
• A woman can also manage hot flashes by arriving to meetings and other events early.
• Keeping ice water or another cold beverage on hand during the day and night.
• Taking a cool shower before bed.
• Using cotton sheets and avoiding silk or synthetics.
• Keeping a cold pack under or near the pillow and turning the pillow often can also help keep a woman cool and minimize hot flashes.
In addition to making these simple changes, avoiding hot flash triggers can significantly help a woman manage hot flashes.
• Warm environments (i.e. hot weather,saunas ).
• Heat makers (e.g. fireplaces, hair dryers, heaters)
• Stress and anxiety.
• Hot and spicy foods and drinks.
• Smoking cigarettes.
• Overconsumption of caffeine, alcohol, and sugar.
• Diet pills.
Making minor daily changes and avoiding triggers can make a huge difference for many menopausal women who are trying to manage hot flashes. While these measures often help to reduce the frequency and intensity of hot flashes, they are unable to treat the root of the problem, which is a hormonal imbalance.
Click on the following link to read more information on managing hot flashes, or continue reading below to learn more about the treatments for hot flashes.
Provides a variety of meal ideas for women who are suffering from hot flashes. These include meal options for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Emphasizes the importance of foods that contain phytoestrogens, such as tomatoes, soy, whole grains, sunflower seeds, and flax in order to control hot flashes.
Gives three simple and effective prevention tips for women prone to menopausal hot flashes. These tips are all possible at little or no cost and include cardiovascular exercise, avoiding close and crowded places, and dietary advice. Also suggests more drastic measures if hot flashes are interfering with daily life.
Hot Flashes Treatments
If the simple management techniques outlined above are not bringing about the desired level of relief and a woman is still suffering from hot flashes, there are other treatment measures that can be followed.
Hot Flash Fighting Health Tips:
• Practice slow, diaphragmatic breathing.
• Eat a balanced diet.
• Increase Vitamin E intake to 800mg/day.
• Increase Vitamin B intake.
• Increase soy protein intake.
• Exercise regularly.
• Consider meditation or yoga.
Daily behaviors can have a significant impact on a woman's experience of hot flashes. For example, eating a spicy dinner or having one too many glasses of wine with dessert can trigger hot flashes. Increased stress due to work pressure or family obligations can also set a hot flash into motion. Lifestyle adjustments are two-pronged: some strategies focus on avoiding triggers while others concentrate on increasing overall health (some overlap in the two exists, as one would expect).
It is most logical, as well as safest, to begin with the least invasive lifestyle changes first, and then progress on to other measures if these are not working. Due to the fact that at heart, hot flashes are a hormonal issue, it is most effective to address the problem at the hormonal source. Natural and alternative remedies are a safe and easy way to nip this problem in the bud, particularly in conjunction with lifestyle changes to promote overall health.
In more drastic cases, it may be advisable to seek surgical or pharmaceutical treatments, though surely these are more risky in terms of side effects and should be approached with caution. In addition to hormone replacement therapy (HRT), several other pharmaceutical drugs may be effective hot flash treatment options. These drugs include:
• Selective-Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (anti-depressants).
• Blood pressure medications.
• Mild sedatives.
• Seizure medications.
It is important to keep in mind that while all of these drugs have the potential to assist in hot flash relief, they all carry a risk of side effects, some of which may outweigh any potential benefits. Click on the following link to read and learn more specifics about the different options for the treatment of hot flashes.
Provides an overview of different ways to treat and manage the symptoms of perimenopause. Shows how the trademark symptom of menopause, hot flashes, can be alleviated using different treatment methods, such as lifestyle changes and hormone replacement therapy (HRT). Emphasizes the importance of a healthy diet, regular exercise, and proper hydration in managing hot flashes.
Gives a detailed list of dietary and herbal remedies for hot flashes that are both safe and effective. Includes descriptions of black cohosh, soy, evening primrose oil, and makes suggestions for lifestyle changes. Presents these treatments as an alternative to hormone replacement therapy (HRT), which has been shown to cause health problems later in life.
- Sikon, Andrea and Holly Thacker M.D. "Treatment for Menopausal Hot Flashes." Cleveland Clinic Journal of Medicine. July 2004: 71 (7).
- "Hot flashes ... in January." Canadian Medical Association Journal. 2004: 170 (1).
- Miller, Heather and Rose Maria Li, M.D. "Measuring Hot Flashes: Summary of a National Institutes of Health Workshop." Conference report. Mayo Clinic. June 2004: 79.
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