Hot Flashes and You
The instant feeling of heat, as if you just walked out of your air-conditioned office into another Burleson July day — you’re having a hot flash. You picture jumping into Lake Superior in January like some Polar Bear Club Member in Minnesota. You want to crawl into your refrigerator. You’re suddenly envious of those emperor penguins huddled together through 20-below zero winter nights in Antarctica.
Hot flashes are the most frequent symptom of menopause and perimenopause. Their occurrence is almost universal in menopause. So, what’s the deal with these damn things anyway and how can I lessen their occurrence?
What causes a hot flash?
The exact causes of hot flashes are not known, but it is thought they may be related to changes in circulation. Hot flashes happen when the blood vessels near the skin’s surface dilate to cool. For some women, instant sweat follows the beginning of the hot flash, as the body tries to cool itself. Some women also have a rapid heart rate or chills. A hot “flush” is a hot flash accompanied by redness in the face and neck.
How long will they go on?
Hot flashes vary among women in menopause. Some women have hot flashes for a very short time during menopause. Others start during menopause, but continue for the rest of their lives. For those with this unfortunate situation, at least the hot flashes tend to decrease in severity as time passes.
Preventing or mitigating hot flashes
There isn’t much chance you’ll be lucky enough to not have hot flashes during menopause, but there are things you can do to avoid triggering them to lessen their frequency. These are known triggers for hot flashes:
- Spicy foods
- Cigarette smoke
- Tight clothing
Some of those seem obvious (heat, duh), but trying to stay cool, especially at night, and wearing loose clothes, particularly during the warmer months, can help. You can also try:
Deep abdominal breathing. This involves only six to eight breaths per minutes. Do this for 15 minutes in the morning and 15 minutes in the evening, and when a hot flash hits.
Daily exercise. Walking, bicycling, Zumba or other dancing, and swimming are all good options.
Chill pillows. These can help with night sweats (basically hot flashes while you’re sleeping).
At Women’s Health Medical Group, we also place our patients on hormone replacement therapy (HRT) for periods under five years. For many women, HRT almost eliminates hot flashes. When taken off HRT, however, the hot flashes may come back.
There are other prescriptions and treatment options we can also try to lessen your hot flashes. Call us at (817) 346-5336 and let’s talk about your options.