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Reproductive Health

Eight Ways to Handle Hot Flashes

Your body continues to change as you get older. Menopause, a late-in-life transition for women, signifies a hormonal shift that means the permanent end to menstrual periods but brings other discomforts.

Menopause is a natural part of the aging process for women. The change usually occurs in a woman’s early 50s, but can also be triggered earlier by the removal of both ovaries or by ovarian damage caused by radiation or chemotherapy. Women may start to notice menopausal symptoms in their 40s. This stage, often referred to as perimenopause, lasts until 12 months after a woman has her final menstrual period. Menopause lasts for a different amount of time in each woman, so the transition can take anywhere from a few months to 10 years. Once a woman has gone one year without her period, she can say that she has entered the postmenopause stage, which will last for the rest of her life.

One of the most common symptoms of menopause is hot flashes. According to BreastCancer.org, 85 percent of women in the United States experience hot flashes because of menopause. The severity and duration of hot flashes are characterized by a sudden, intense feeling of heat. There is no real cure for hot flashes, but they stop in many women a few years after menopause. In the meantime, here are eight simple ways you can cope with hot flashes:

Identify and avoid triggers
Keep track of your hot flashes and the circumstances surrounding them to determine if certain circumstances or actions are triggers. Common triggers include spicy food, heat, excess tobacco or alcohol use, and stress.

Calm down
When you feel a hot flash coming on, stressing out about it will likely make it worse. Take deep, slow breaths from your abdomen. The Cleveland Clinic suggests setting aside 15 minutes twice a day to practice deep breathing. This will also help you manage stress.

Keep cool
If you also experience night sweats, sleep with a fan on. Use cotton bed sheets or wear cotton pajamas.

Stay hydrated
You lose more fluid when you sweat, so it is important to stay hydrated if you frequently experience hot flashes. Keep cold water on hand and drink it at the onset of the hot flash to cool down your insides and counter the feelings of the hot flash.

Adopt a healthy lifestyle
According to the National Institute on Aging, exercising regularly may help women with hot flashes as well as reduce the risk of serious postmenopausal health concerns like heart disease and osteoporosis. Quit smoking because it damages your bones and can worsen hot flashes. Reach and maintain a healthy body weight because this might help hot flashes. Eat a healthy, balanced diet and make sure you get the proper nutrients.

Dress in layers
Layer your clothing so you can make yourself more comfortable as you feel an increase in body heat. Stay away from wool and synthetics and wear silk sparingly. Wear lose-fitting clothing made from cotton, rayon or linen. Avoid turtlenecks and tight-fitting clothes.

Acupuncture
Some studies have shown that acupuncture, a form of alternative medicine, may reduce the intensity of hot flashes.

Supplements
Natural dietary supplements may help ease hot flashes, but they could have dangerous side effects and do not need FDA approval to be sold. The effectiveness of the herb black cohosh yields mixed results, and scientists have expressed concern over its effect on the liver. Soy contains estrogen-like substances called phytoestrogens that may help with hot flashes. There are unknown risks associated with soy pills and powders, so stick with foods like tofu and soy milk. Talk to your doctor before trying any kind of dietary supplement.