Most people identify hot flashes as one of the first indicators that a woman’s body is gearing up for “the change.” Here, women’s healthcare specialist Marla Ahlgrimm answers questions about hot flashes and offers advice on how to keep cool when things heat up.
Q: What is a “hot flash?”
Marla Ahlgrimm: Hot flashes, or flushes, are the sudden feelings of intense warmth in the upper body and face. They are characterized by facial reddening, sweatiness, and when they are experienced in cases related to menopause, insomnia. Hot flashes occur when the blood vessels closest to the skin’s surface dilate rapidly. They may be accompanied by chills or a rapid heart rate. Scientists are as yet uncertain on why the changing hormones cause flushing, but it may be due to a change in the circulatory system.
Q: When do hot flashes typically start?
Marla Ahlgrimm: Hot flashes can occur at any time during a woman’s life but they are frequently one of the first signs of menopause and begin at about the age of 45. Fortunately, though they may last for many years, the severity typically weakens as time goes by. Women experiencing early menopause can start having hot flashes and other symptoms in their mid-thirties.
Q: What’s the best way to avoid hot flashes?
Marla Ahlgrimm: The only way to prevent or eliminate hot flashes is to replace the missing estrogen. This is achieved through HRT, Hormone Replacement Therapy. However, many women find much-needed relief via simple changes in their daily activity and diet. This includes eating plenty of lean protein and wearing light, cotton clothing to bed.
Q: Are there any OTC medications that treat hot flashes?
Marla Ahlgrimm: It’s important to remember that hot flashes are not a disease and therefore they do not require treatment. They are a sign that the body is undergoing a perfectly natural change. If hot flashes are bothersome and cannot be controlled with diet and lifestyle changes, supplementation with vitamins E and B may help.