Women's Health

Dealing with Hot Flashes

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By Henry Ford Health System Staff

For many women, the symptoms of menopause can be a nuisance. Just as you faced hormonal shifts during puberty, you’ll also have to navigate another series of changes in the years surrounding menopause.

One of the biggest complaints among women in the pre-, peri- and postmenopausal year? Hot flashes.

Heating Up

Hormones, including estrogen, play several roles in the female body, one of which is regulating your internal thermostat. Unfortunately, when your hormones begin fluctuating during perimenopause, your temperature tends to skyrocket. The end result: hot flashes.

“A lot of women start to experience hot flashes long before they notice changes in their menstrual cycle,” says Robert Goldfarb, M.D., an obstetrician/gynecologist and certified menopause practitioner at Henry Ford Health System. Add to that the increasing pressures of mid-life — aging parents, demanding careers and child care responsibilities — and it’s no surprise that women are heating up.

Cooling Down

Menopause doesn’t have to mean feeling like your head is stuck in an oven. Here are Dr. Goldfarb’s seven strategies to help you cool down:

  1. Stop smoking: If you’re worried about hot flashes, stop smoking. In fact, menopausal symptoms of all types are more severe if you smoke.
  1. Layer up: Dress in layers in the fall or winter, so you can take pieces off as you warm up.
  1. Get a clip fan: If you you’re sweating at night, or you wake up with night sweats, wear a light nightgown, use a light blanket and get a clip fan for your bedpost.
  1. Watch your diet: What you eat has a profound effect on the frequency and severity of hot flashes. Try a common sense approach: Up your water intake, limit hot and caffeinated beverages and avoid spicy foods.
  1. Consider alternative treatments: Studies show that herbs and supplements such as soy and black cohosh can help minimize hot flashes in menopausal women. If you’re in your mid-to late 40s, you might even consider a low-dose birth control pill to regulate your cycle and control hot flashes.
  1. Get moving: If you exercise regularly, you’ll be better equipped to navigate hot flashes. In addition to the host of benefits exercise offers, studies consistently show that exercising during the menopausal years reduces both the frequency and severity of hot flashes.
  1. De-stress: Practice relaxation techniques, such as yoga, mindfulness and meditation. Each of these techniques can be remarkably effective in terms of managing hot flashes.

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Regaining Control

If hot flashes are just an occasional annoyance, you might be able to tough it out. But if your hot flashes keep you up at night, make you miserable or affect your quality of life, make an appointment with your physician.

“Lifestyle strategies can help, but some women may want to consider hormone replacement therapy or prescription medication, such as antidepressants, to minimize hot flashes and other menopausal symptoms,” says Dr. Goldfarb. “Your doctor can go over your options and come up with a plan that works for you.”

To find a doctor at Henry Ford, visit henryford.com or call 1-800-HENRYFORD (436-7936).

Dr. Robert Goldfarb specializes in obstetrics and gynecology and sees patients at Henry Ford West Bloomfield Hospital and Henry Ford Medical Center – Ford Road in Dearborn.