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Menopause Health Center

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Hot Flashes and Menopause - Topic Overview

A hot flash is a sudden sensation of intense body heat, often with profuse sweating and reddening of the head, neck, and chest. These symptoms can occur with mild to severe heart palpitations, anxiety, irritability and, rarely, panic. Hot flashes are the most common symptom of a woman's changing estrogen levels around the time of her last menstrual period (menopause).

The biochemical cause of hot flashes is not well understood. Hot flashes are more common at night than during the day and are a common cause of sleep problems for perimenopausal and postmenopausal women.

Recommended Related to Menopause

Understanding Menopause -- Treatment

After menopause, hormone replacement therapy (HRT) is often prescribed to resupply the body with the hormones it no longer produces. Discuss this with your doctor. As with any medication, there are risks and benefits, and each woman should decide if HRT is the right choice for her. HRT typically consists of an estrogen/progestin supplement -- usually given orally or through a skin patch or gel. Estrogen is the component that treats hot flashes, vaginal dryness, and increased risk of heart disease...

Read the Understanding Menopause -- Treatment article > >

While some women will never experience hot flashes, others begin having them in their 30s. Hot flashes are most frequent and intense during the first 2 years of postmenopause, when estrogen levels have dropped below a certain point. Sleep patterns usually improve within 6 to 12 months after hot flashes begin.

Tips for managing hot flashes

  • Dress in layers, so you can remove clothes as needed.
  • Wear natural fabrics, such as cotton and silk.
  • Keep the room temperature cool or use a fan. You're more likely to have a hot flash in a warm environment than in a cool one.
  • Sleep with fewer blankets.
  • Drink cold beverages rather than hot ones.
  • Limit your intake of caffeine and alcohol.
  • Eat smaller, more frequent meals to avoid the heat generated by digesting large amounts of food.
  • Do not smoke.
  • Use relaxation techniques, such as breathing-for-relaxation exercises or meditation, yoga, and biofeedback.
  • Get regular physical exercise.

    WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

    Last Updated: March 12, 2014
    This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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