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Managing menopause: Hot flashes

Jen Klein is a New England-based technical writer and mother of three. When she isn't asking her kids to stop bickering, "caramelizing" the dinner or actively ignoring the dust bunnies under the couch, she enjoys knitting, gardening, pho...

Take the heat!

You might have seen the bumper sticker, "It's not a hot flash; it's a power surge!" And while you might have laughed at that in your 20s or 30s thinking that time is so, so far away, if you are in your 40s, maybe you think of that phrase with a knowing, uncertain groan.

Woman having hot flash

Most women, either in perimenopause or menopause, experience hot flashes. This is a physical response to the declining estrogen levels in your body. Your skin temperature suddenly rises and you start to sweat; your face and your neck become flushed. Interestingly, however, your body temperature may drop and immediately after a hot flash, you may feel chilled. They can be embarrassing, sure, but they are pretty normal. Sometimes the hot flash happens at night, resulting in night sweats and interrupted sleep - and that's frustrating in it's own way.

Typically, hot flashes are intense for a couple years around menopause; they stabilize when your body adjusts to the lower estrogen level. If none of these suggestions really work for you, talk to your doctor about whether hormone replacement therapy might be right for managing your perimenopause/menopause symptoms.

Could you have perimenopause at age 30? Join in on the discussion on our SK message boards.

Diet

Tobacco use and heavy alcohol use appear to make hot flashes worse, so eliminate or limit your intake of those substances. Additionally, several small meals of high fiber, low fat foods may also help to manage hot flashes - and they are healthy ideas anyway, regardless of your hormonal state.

Stress - and exercise

Stress can also be a factor in hot flashes, and some hot flashes may be accompanied by heart palpitations and anxiety attacks. Keeping an eye on and managing your overall stress level - through relaxation techniques, exercise and diet - may help you manage hot flashes. And again, it's a healthy practice beyond the perimenopause issue.

Dress in layers

This is where - dare I say it - hot flashes can be fun, or at least stylish. If you have been experiencing hot flashes, dressing in layers will allow you to remove some layers quickly and easily as a hot flash erupts, then put them back on as needed. Think gorgeous scarves and light sweaters in natural, absorbent fibers, and loose clothing. You can always keep a spare scarf in your purse just in case one gets a little too damp.

The layers idea extends to your bed, as well. If you have been having night sweats, lighter blanket layers rather than one heavy bedcovering might be better for you.

Whether you call them a power surge or thermostat malfunction, hot flashes happen. Be as prepared as possible and you can get through them healthier and more stylishly. But maybe keep a damp, cool cloth nearby, just in case.

For more tips on managing menopause:

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