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Menopause: Managing Hot Flashes

Overview

A hot flash is a sudden feeling of intense body heat. Your head, neck, and chest may get red. Your heartbeat may speed up, and you may feel anxious. You may find that hot flashes occur more often in warm rooms or during stressful times.

It's common to have hot flashes at some point before or after menopause. Hot flashes happen when estrogen levels drop. You may have few to no hot flashes, or you may have them many times each day.

Hot flashes can be uncomfortable and upsetting. They can lower the quality of your sleep and daily life. But they aren't a sign of a medical problem. They are a normal response to natural changes in your body.

Hot flashes usually get better or go away after the first or second year after menopause. At that point, estrogen levels usually stay at a low level.

You can try lifestyle changes that may help you manage or reduce your hot flashes.

  • Avoid using tobacco or drinking a lot of alcohol.
  • Manage stress.
  • Exercise regularly, and eat a healthy diet.

You also can talk to your doctor about treatments that may either reduce or stop your hot flashes. These include taking hormone therapy and certain medicines.

How can you manage hot flashes?

Lifestyle choices

You can manage hot flashes by making certain lifestyle choices. Some measures may help to prevent or reduce hot flashes. Others can make you more comfortable when you're having a hot flash.

  • Eat and drink well.
    • Limit food and drinks that make your symptoms worse. This may include things like caffeine, alcohol, or spicy foods.
    • Drink cold liquids rather than hot ones.
    • Eat healthy foods.
  • Stay cool.
    • Keep your area cool. Use a fan.
    • Dress in layers. Then you can remove clothes as needed.
    • Wear natural fabrics, such as cotton and silk.
    • Sleep with fewer blankets.
  • Reduce stress.
    • Get regular exercise.
    • Use relaxation techniques, such as breathing exercises, yoga, or biofeedback.
  • Don't smoke or use other forms of tobacco.

Medicines

There are prescription medicines that can help with hot flashes.

  • Hormone therapy (HT) can reduce or stop hot flashes and other menopause symptoms. It raises your estrogen level. HT may increase the risk of problems in a small number of women. These problems include:
    • Blood clots.
    • Stroke.
    • Heart disease.
    • Breast cancer.
    • Dementia.

    Risk varies based on when you start HT in menopause and how long you take it. Starting HT in early menopause has less risk than when it's started later in menopause.footnote 1 If you have a history of heart disease or breast cancer, your doctor will probably advise you to avoid using estrogen for hot flashes.

  • Estrogen-progestin birth control pills (before menopause) can reduce or stop hot flashes and other symptoms.
  • Antidepressant medicine can reduce the number of hot flashes and how bad they are.
  • Clonidine may relieve hot flashes for some women.
  • Gabapentin, an antiseizure medicine, may lower the number of hot flashes each day. It also may make hot flashes less severe.

All medicines for menopause symptoms have possible risks or side effects. And there's a very small chance of serious health problems from taking hormone therapy. Be sure to talk to your doctor about your possible health risks before you start a treatment for menopause symptoms.

References

Citations

  1. North American Menopause Society (2017). The 2017 hormone therapy position statement of the North American Menopause Society. Menopause, 24(7): 728–753. DOI: 10.1097/GME.0000000000000921. Accessed November 14, 2019.

Credits

Current as of: August 2, 2022

Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:
Anne C. Poinier MD - Internal Medicine
Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine
Martin J. Gabica MD - Family Medicine
Carla J. Herman MD, MPH - Geriatric Medicine

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