Menopause hot flushes
Hot flushes, also known as menopause hot flashes, and their tiresome sister night sweats are the bane of many a menopausal woman’s life. Why do you have them and how can you manage them?
HOT FLUSHES DEFINITION
It’s when you have a sudden creeping or sweeping heat across the upper body that lasts a few minutes, which can be uncomfortable and embarrassing. They have a habit of appearing at the most inconvenient times!
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HOW LIKELY ARE HOT FLUSHES DURING MENOPAUSE?
- These symptoms are experienced by three in every four
- Menopause generally begins at 50-55. Hot flushes may happen up to a few years before periods stop and a few years after menopause too
- Research has revealed that, on average, you can experience hot flushes for an average of 10 years
- Your lifestyle – what you eat, drink and if you smoke – could mean you are more susceptible to hot flushes
Read more about the stages of menopause.
SIGNS OF HOT FLUSHES
A sudden feeling of heat sweep across your upper body
Visible red flushing or blotches on your face, neck and/or chest
Sweating unexpectedly during the day or at night
A rapid heartbeat and/or palpitations
NIGHT SWEATS MENOPAUSE
Night sweats are hot flushes that happen during the night and can be uncomfortable and upsetting as well as leaving you exhausted the next day. You may wake up drenched all of a sudden on your neck, chest, hair and elsewhere on your body. You may even need to change your bedding.
TREATMENT FOR HOT FLUSHES IN MENOPAUSE
Did you know that changing your lifestyle and avoiding certain things that can cause blood vessels to dilate can really help keep your hot flash symptoms under control? Here are six things you can try.
2. Take care of your diet. Avoid spicy foods, such as chilies, paprika and cayenne pepper. Reduce caffeine, such as coffee, tea, green tea, energy drinks and other fizzy drinks. It increases your heart rate and dilates blood vessels.
Follow a diet low in saturated fat and salt and high in Vitamin D and calcium. Eating foods rich in phytoestrogens, which mimic oestrogen, might help.
3. Increase exercise. It has been shown to help reduce hot flushes by 60%. Aim for 500 minutes a week, including two and a half hours of cardio exercise, such as jogging or pedalling at a pace that causes sweating and increased heart rate.
4. Quit smoking. Smokers have more hot flushes than non-smokers.
5. Keep cool: Helpful tips include, wear lightweight layers you can remove quickly – you can buy menopause-friendly nightwear engineered to wick away sweat. Use sheets and blankets for bedding instead of a duvet, so you can adapt to your temperature easily. Invest in a cooling face spray and fan for when the heat hits.
6. Watch your stress. Practice mindfulness, have plenty of breaks and time for yourself.
WOULD HORMONE REPLACEMENT THERAPY (HRT) HELP?
Yes. HRT is known to improve sleep, mood and hot flushes during menopause. However, HRT comes with risks and is not suitable for everyone. Read more about the HRT debate.
It might be that your doctor recommends another medicine, such as clonidine or some antidepressants that can help with hot flushes. Speak to your doctor about your personal treatment options.
HOT FLUSHES AND MENOPAUSE
It’s not certain why hot flushes happen. It is believed that declining hormone levels can affect the part of the brain that controls body temperature, the hypothalamus.
This means the body incorrectly identifies a rise in temperature, which in turn dilates blood vessels and causes sweat breakouts.
In most cases the body resets itself over time and regulates temperature correctly again.
Read Jeneva’s advice on how to manage hot flushes at work.
It is rare that hot flashes are caused by anything other than menopause, however you may get symptoms as a result of:
- Something you have eaten or drunk, such as spices, caffeine or alcohol
- Anxiety and stress
- Illness, such as fever
- Thyroid issues
Always talk to your doctor to rule out any health issues.
Hot flushes and night sweats can disrupt sleep, which can impact your day-to-day ability to function.
Recent research has revealed a link between hot flushes and heart health – adjusting lifestyle factors can minimise your risk.
Recent research (although indirect) has revealed a link between a lack of sleep and dementia. With more than two-thirds of Alzheimer’s patients being women, managing hot flushes and night sweats is important for long-term brain health.
If you are one of the one in 10 who find hot flushes unbearable, don’t suffer alone and ask your doctor for help.
If you have additional symptoms such as weight loss, diarrhoea, weakness, fatigue or rapid heartbeat then see your doctor.
I can now keep calm if I feel heat coming on and remind myself that the moment will pass”
- British Menopause Society: How long do flushes go on?
- Healthline: Hot Flashes Are More Than Annoying — They Could Signal Heart Disease
- Imperial Biomedical Research Centre: Relief from menopausal symptoms
- Jackie Lynch. “The Happy Menopause: Smart Nutrition to Help You Flourish”. Apple Books.
- MGH Centre for Women’s Mental Health: In Brief: Why Exercise Helps with Menopausal Hot Flashes
- Net Doctor: Beat hot flushes for good
- NHS: Menopause
- Web MD: Menopause: Smokers Have More Hot Flashes
- Women’s Health Concern: Menopause