Hot Flashes — How to beat the heat when going through menopause
RAPID CITY, S.D. — Summer has settled in, with the daily highs staying well above 80 degrees. In the midst of these hot days regular hot flashes can make the summer heat feel inescapable.
“Hot flashes can be debilitating, particularly during the hot months,” says Dr. Heather Moline, gynecologist at Rapid City Medical Center. “For many women hot flashes feel very life limiting, and many women don’t spend much time outside or stay where there is good air flow or air conditioning because they feel that they can’t escape the heat.”
Hot flashes first occur when a woman experiences hormone fluctuation during perimenopause. This phase in a woman’s life comes before menopause and can occur anywhere from the late 30s all the way into their 40s or even 50s. Perimenopause can last anywhere from one to seven years, and is often accompanied by irregular menstrual cycles, heavier or unpredictable periods and, of course, hot flashes.
During perimenopause, a woman’s body begins producing inconsistent amounts of estrogen, and this hormonal shift is believed to interact with the body’s thermoregulatory system. The body reacts to this hormonal fluctuation with a hot flash often characterized by a rapid heartbeat, perspiration, red/blotchy skin, and a warm feeling that spreads through the chest, neck and face.
While hot flashes are not necessarily a serious medical condition, they are nothing to take lightly and can occur at almost any time during the day or night. To combat and prepare for a hot flash, Dr. Moline recommends finding a personal fan that you can keep handy while you are sitting at your office desk or in your home, and she says that a cool washcloth around your neck will help get you through a particularly troublesome hot flash. Multiple layers of loose clothing will be your best friend, particularly during the summer months. Finding clothes made of natural fibers like cotton will help you cool down when the heat kicks in.
The greatest health risk hot flashes pose is disrupting your sleep pattern. Make sure you do what you can to keep the bedroom cool and have a fan available to keep the air moving. It will also help to have different layers of sheets or bedding that can easily be removed if you experience a hot flash.
Dr. Moline also recommends that you keep a food journal to see if your hot flashes come on after eating certain foods. Foods such as onions or peppers have been linked to increased digestive activity, which can cause a hot flash or night sweat. If you are able to find a link between a hot flash and something in your diet, you may be able to significantly reduce the number of hot flashes you experience both during the day and at night. Another tip Dr. Moline has is moderate exercise right before you go to bed.
If night sweats are still waking you up consistently at night, it may be time to ask your doctor for help in managing your symptoms, because there is no one-size-fits-all plan when it comes to menopausal symptoms. “For every patient there are usually some options that are available to try,” Dr. Moline says, “and every patient’s symptoms are different, so they should get a personalized treatment plan.”
While hormone therapy is a fairly well-known option, there are many treatment plans that can help women who are experiencing hot flashes and other menopausal symptoms.