HOT FLUSHES DURING MENOPAUSE
Around 75%-80% of menopausal women experience hot flushes and 25% are severely affected
What are hot flushes?
Experts suggest they are the result of low oestrogen levels somehow affecting your body’s internal ‘thermostat’ and they are generally one of the most common signifiers of the menopause (although they can also be a side effect of some medication and medical treatments). Sadly, the stock in trade image of a sweaty woman in front of a fan or an open fridge has led to them being treated as a bit of a joke. And whereas humour can help you through the experience, it is not necessarily a barrel of laughs when heat is coursing through your body causing you to sweat profusely, your heart is pounding and your face is turning red whilst trying to appear professional at work and/or keeping it together in your day to day life. Hot flushes are not life threatening but they can make you self-conscious and can clearly interfere with the quality of your life.
What do hot flushes feel like?
Again, the severity with which you experience a hot flush varies from woman to woman but they are commonly described as a feeling of intense heat that can creep throughout your whole body but is often concentrated through your head, neck and chest. Many women say they feel like an internal fire has started inside them. Others liken it to the kind of intense heat you feel when lying on a sunbed or going into a sauna. This can, unsurprisingly, lead to profuse sweating and may be accompanied by heart palpitations and/or feelings of anxiety.
How long do hot flushes last?
The whole flush episode can last a matter of minutes (the average is four) but it often feels like longer. They can occur every few hours to a couple of times a week. They may also potentially last for years after your periods have stopped.
How to manage hot flushes
Anticipate hot flushes
Carry a battery-operated mini fan with you for when you are out and about; keep cooling wet wipes in your bag and/or a cooling spray to spritz over your face and chest to help keep your temperature down. Keep a fan on your desk at work and/or in your bedroom at home.
These include spicy foods which can dilate blood vessels and stimulate nerve endings or those containing monosodium glutamate (MSG) – often found in foods like ready meals, salty snacks, stock cubes and packet soups - which can act as a trigger. Alcohol and caffeine (coffee, tea and cola or energy drinks) can also exacerbate hot flushes as can stress so try to find an effective stress reliever. Also make sure you are drinking enough hydrating fluids (water, herbal teas, water-rich foods) as dehydration is known to exacerbate symptoms
Dress for hot flushes
wear thin layers so you can take off some items of clothing if you start to overheat. Invest in fabrics that should keep you cooler like our specially created anti-flush menopause clothing designed to help absorb heat from the surface of your skin and keep your cool.
90% of women who have tried this ‘Anti-Flush’ vest top say they have seen a reduction in the severity of hot flushes and night sweats they experience.
Look after yourself through diet and exercise
Regular exercise and keeping your weight down have also been found to help reduce the risk of hot flushes. A 2017 Brazilian study suggested women who were overweight or obese suffered more severely. Women who smoke also appear to have more severe hot flushes so it makes sense to cut down and ideally give up.
Eat more phytoestrogens
These are plant-based foods which are structurally related to oestrogen and include soy, soy beans, wholegrain cereals, tofu and alfalfa sprouts. One large report from 2015 has linked eating them to a reduction in the frequency of hot flushes.
Consider sage supplements
There is evidence to show that sage supplements can help reduce the incidence and severity of hot flushes. Some women also find other botanical supplements like Black Cohosh and Red Clover helpful.
Hormone replacement therapy (HRT)
If you are taking HRT your hot flushes will probably completely disappear and this is what the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) – an organisation that provides national guidance on health and well-being issues - recommends for relieving flushes and night sweats. Statistically-speaking it is the most effective treatment for hot flushes. but does carry some risks.
If you are unable, or don’t want to take HRT and your hot flushes are severely impacting on the quality of your life your doctor could potentially prescribe drugs including anti-depressants like fluoxetine, citalopram or venlafaxine. Clonidine, a drug normally used to treat high blood pressure, may also be recommended.
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