Hot Flashes

At midlife, a healthy lifestyle can help manage menopausal symptoms and reduce your risk of serious health conditions, like breast cancer, heart disease, and osteoporosis (thinning bones).

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 or irritable. You may find that hot flashes occur more often in warm rooms or during stressful times. Hot flashes and other symptoms are a normal response to the hormone changes that occur before your menstrual cycle goes away completely (menopause) and may continue into menopause.

Hot flashes often get better and go away with time. Making a few changes, such as exercising more, practicing meditation, quitting smoking, and drinking less alcohol, can help. Some women take hormone pills or other medicine to treat bothersome symptoms. This may be discussed at an appointment with your provider if you are interested.

How can you care for yourself at home?

  • If you decide to take medicine to treat hot flashes, take it exactly as prescribed. Call your provider if you think you are having a problem with your medicine. You will get more details on the specific medicine your provider prescribes.
  • Learn to meditate. Sit quietly and focus on your breathing. Try to practice each day. Books, classes, and tapes can help you start a program.
  • Wear natural fabrics, such as cotton and silk. Dress in layers so you can take off clothes as needed.
  • Keep the room temperature cool or use a fan. You are more likely to have a hot flash when you are too warm than when you are cool.
  • Use fewer blankets when you sleep at night.
  • Drink cold fluids rather than hot ones. Limit your intake of caffeine and alcohol.
  • Eat smaller meals more often during the day so your body makes less heat than when digesting large amounts of food. Eat low-fat and high-fiber foods.
  • Losing excess weight by eating a low-fat diet filled with fruits, vegetables, and whole grains can help reduce and even eliminate menopausal symptoms.
  • Do not smoke. Smoking can make hot flashes worse. If you need help quitting, talk to your provider about stop-smoking programs and medicines. These can increase your chances of quitting for good. The Kaiser Permanente Smoker’s Helpline is 1-888-883-STOP.
  • Get at least 30 minutes of exercise on most days of the week. Walking is a good choice. You also may want to do other activities, such as running, swimming, cycling, or playing tennis or team sports.

When should you call for help?

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your provider if:

  • Your hot flashes disrupt your activities or sleep.
  • Your symptoms bother you, and they are not getting better.

Suggested reading material for this problem as well as other issues common in perimenopause and menopause are on our Orange County’s Women’s Health Services website, the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology Patient website or the North American Menopause Society website. At these sites, you can learn more about the changes to your body and your feelings at this time in your life as well as get unbiased and consistent evidence-based recommendations to help you optimize your health and well-being.

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