What is a Hot Flash?

A hot flash is a heat sensation usually accompanied by skin redness, sweating and increased heart rate. The redness occurs because the blood vessels in the skin dilate in an effort to release heat and cool down the body. When this occurs at night it is called a “night sweat”. Usually hot flashes last for a few minutes. After the hot flash, some women can have chills. Anywhere from 2/3 to 3/4 of perimenopausal/menopausal women have hot flashes. About 1/4 of women have severe enough symptoms to seek medical attention. While the exact cause of a hot flash is unknown one theory is that lower levels of estrogen occur in the menopause transition which results in decreased ability for certain areas of the brain to adjust to temperature changes - the response is a hot flash. Hot flashes usually begin during the perimenopausal years. Most women experience hot flashes for two years or less, but it is not uncommon for hot flashes to last for many years. The GOOD news is there are many helpful treatments to lessen hot flashes and improve oneʼs quality of life! The following is a list of some interventions/treatments: Avoid triggers like stress, caffeine, alcohol, spicy foods, smoking, and heat . Turn the temperature down especially at night. Exercise helps! Maintaining a healthy body weight, relaxation techniques like mindfulness, yoga and acupuncture. There are wonderful therapists as well as very helpful apps for mindfulness such as Breathe and Calm. Over the counter remedies such as vitamin B complex, vitamin E and omega 3 fatty acids can be helpful. Soy and black cohosh reduce mild hot flashes in some women. The “gold standard” treatment is hormone replacement therapy. This should be prescribed at the lowest dose for the least amount of time. This is incredibly helpful for most women. Other effective prescription options include certain antidepressants, gabapentin (Neurontin), and some high blood pressure medications. Hot flashes are very treatable. Women suffering with hot flashes deserve a care plan that fits them.

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