Plug in the fan, friends. It seems like hot flashes are the
curse of "the change." Estrogen therapy will help get rid of them. But
if we choose not to take HRT (hormone replacement therapy) during menopause,
how long must we put up with those unpredictable, uncomfortable sweats?
For answers, WebMD spoke with menopause specialist, Nancy
Fugate Woods, PhD, RN, dean of nursing and an epidemiologist at the University
of Washington at Seattle.
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I'll admit it: I hate change. It's only spring and I already feel uneasy
about my youngest child, my baby girl, starting kindergarten in the fall. I'm
Actually, many young women are already familiar with hot
flashes before they enter menopause, Woods tells WebMD. "Many women have
them premenstrually," she says. And more than two-thirds of women
experience hot flashes during perimenopause, the few years leading up to
menopause that can start as early as your 30s.
But once you hit your 50s and make the transition into
menopause, hot flashes will likely last two to three years. "For some
women, they can last as long as 10 years, but that is not typical," says
Woods. "In fact, a lot of women have no hot flashes at all - or they may
have 'warm spells' that they don't really think of as hot flashes. They may
think they're simply sweating because they're involved in some
Unfortunately, there's no way of knowing when they will
Hot flashes are a sudden change in the body's thermostat, the
part of the brain that regulates our body temperature. That triggers a chain of
events that can cause flushing and perspiration.
Who's most likely to get hot flashes? "Women who are
sedentary. Also, women with more body fat have more hot flashes, probably
because they are more insulated and have a difficult time losing body
heat," she says.
"You can deal with them by getting regular aerobic
exercise, doing relaxation techniques, and using what's called 'paced
breathing' [slow, deep abdominal breathing when you feel a hot flash starting]
- like you do in meditation or in labor," Woods says. "Actually, I
learned to do paced breathing and found that you can kind of stop a hot flash
with it. It's interesting how it works."