Navigating through life as a woman has its ups and downs. Decades of cramps, menstrual cycles, and bloating can leave you running towards the finish line as you approach menopause. This is it. Your period will end, and you can live out the rest of your day’s feminine product free and frolicking through the tulips, right? Not so fast.
Menopause isn’t always that simple. Queue the surprise faces. Menopause is the 12 months after a woman has her last menstrual cycle. However, hormonal changes and other menopausal symptoms typically start before this time and last anywhere from 7 to 14 years! Symptoms experienced in the menopause transition include trouble sleeping, moodiness, irritability, pain during sex, and the dreaded hot flashes.
What are Hot Flashes?
Hot flashes, or vasomotor symptoms, are experienced by up to 80% of women during menopause. Hot flashes are described as a sudden rush of heat sensation in the chest, neck, and face. Flushing, rapid heartbeat, perspiration, and sweating follows. How long hot flashes last can vary from woman to woman but are typically experienced anywhere from a few years to a decade or more.
It is not known what causes hot flashes, but certain changes in reproductive hormones (like that during menopause) is certainly a related factor. Obesity, smoking history, and ethnicity all increase your risk.
More than the Heat
Aside from the obvious uncomfortable feeling of an unwanted rush of heat, hot flashes can affect other areas of your life. If you have hot flashes at night (night sweats), you can begin to lose sleep and have chronic insomnia. This can lead to other medical issues, so if your hot flashes are impacting things like sleep, talk to your doctor. The National Institute on Aging also recommends the following lifestyle changes you can make to ease hot flash symptoms:
- Dress in Layers– When a hot flash hits, these layers can be removed to cool off.
- Portable Fans– Carry a portable fan to help cool down.
- Avoid Certain Foods– Avoiding alcohol, spicy foods, and caffeine which are known to worsen symptoms.
- Maintain Healthy Weight– Maintaining a healthier weight will help reduce and lessen the severity of hot flashes.
- Smoking– If you smoke, try to quit. Smoking is a risk factor for hot flashes.
Current and Future Treatment Options
If your hot flashes are persistent even after implementing lifestyle changes, then it is time to talk with your doctor. Working closely with your doctor is the best approach to finding the most effective treatment plan for you.
Treatments are not a one-size-fits-all approach, that is why clinical research is so important in continuing to advance future treatment options for hot flashes and other conditions. Women’s Health Care Research is currently enrolling females in research studies evaluating new treatment options for hot flashes. If you or someone you know is interested in learning more about these studies, click HERE. Qualified participants receive study-related care and medication at no cost as well as compensation for time and travel.