Hot flashes are the most common symptom of the transition to menopause, with about 75% of women experiencing them. They may be mild or severe, rare or frequent, and last for a few weeks or as long as 10 years. Regardless of severity, frequency, or duration you’re probably interested in knowing anything good about them!
At Apple Hill Gynecology, Dr. Marsha Bornt and her staff know that hot flashes and night sweats — hot flashes that occur while you’re sleeping — can be debilitating and disrupt your life. Whether you’re struggling to keep your cool at work, or finding that night sweats don’t allow you to sleep comfortably, finding out a few encouraging facts may help you manage life as you move toward menopause.
The average length of a hot flash is about four minutes, though they may be as short as a few seconds or as long as 10 minutes. A hot flash will not, though, last for hours or days. It may help you deal with the discomfort to know that it’s going to be short-lived.
Some women have several hot flashes per hour, which may feel like they are lasting for hours or days. If you’re experiencing multiple hot flashes per day, you should speak to Dr. Bornt.
Not everyone who has hot flashes is able to identify specific triggers, but it’s certainly worth investigating. One way to narrow it down is to keep a journal of what you eat and drink throughout the day, how you’re feeling, what you’re wearing, and anything else that seems significant.
Some women find that being in a hot room is a trigger. Other common triggers are consuming alcohol, wearing tight clothing, bending over, spicy foods, or even feeling stressed or anxious.
If you can figure out specific triggers, you may be able to avoid them and experience fewer hot flashes.
We can’t promise that if you learn to meditate and adopt a nutritious diet you won’t have any more hot flashes. However, those kinds of lifestyle changes may be helpful.
Smoking raises your risk of having hot flashes, and quitting is a positive step for your overall health. Similarly, obesity is a known risk factor, so losing any extra weight may help.
Managing your stress levels may also be beneficial. Try to reduce the number of obligations you have, schedule downtime for yourself to enjoy a hobby or to simply rest, or consider taking a class like tai chi or yoga.
If things like identifying your triggers or changing your habits don’t help, there are other ways to treat hot flashes. Hormone therapy is a common approach, though there are some reasons you may not want to do that. It’s certainly important to discuss all the benefits and risks with Dr. Bornt.
Antidepressants are also a common treatment for hot flashes. A recent study compared the effectiveness of estrogen, antidepressants, and a placebo and found that estrogen and antidepressants were similarly effective. More research is necessary, but if you can’t take estrogen, this could be a good option for you.
Although about 10% of women who have hot flashes continue to have them forever, the vast majority of women do stop having them. Two to four years is the average length of time women have hot flashes.
It isn’t necessary to just suffer through hot flashes. If you’re struggling to get through your day either because of hot flashes or because you aren’t sleeping well because of night sweats, schedule an appointment at Apple Hill Gynecology.