October 18th marks World Menopause Day with the main focus being to raise awareness of the menopause and the support options that are available for improving women’s health and wellbeing. Hot flushes are the most common symptom of the menopause and are characterised by a sudden feeling of heat which seems to come from nowhere and spreads through your body. The menopause can bring about a number of symptoms, including insomnia or sleep problems, heavy periods, fluctuating moods and a lack of libido.
The good news is that you’re unlikely to experience all of these issues and that for many women, the extent of the symptoms won’t be too severe.
However, there is one symptom that you’re highly likely to encounter at some point during your menopause. Hot flushes are the most well-known (and often dreaded) of the menopausal symptoms. They’re incredibly common and for some women, they’re likely to continue for a number of years.
What Exactly Are Hot Flushes?
Hot flushes tend to come on quite suddenly. You’ll experience them as an abrupt, sometimes quite dramatic flush of heat that runs through the body, often felt most intensely in the facial region. A hot flush (or ‘flash’, as they’re sometimes known) can cause sweating and redness, not to mention a general sensation of discomfort and mild embarrassment!
They’re generally more prevalent at the start of the menopause. Some women report suffering several hot flushes throughout the day. However, as the menopausal transition continues, hot flushes do tend to settle into a more predictable pattern.
Hot Flushes and the Reduced Risk of Breast Cancer
When experiencing a hot flush, here’s something to keep in mind. Embarrassing and uncomfortable as they may be, recent research has now found links between hot flushes and reduced risk of developing breast cancer. Believe it or not, women who experience intense, regular hot flushes are up to 60% less likely to develop breast cancer. It’s certainly a good thing to remember when you’re experiencing one!
How to Cope with Hot Flushes
Alarming though hot flushes can be in the early stages of menopause, be reassured in the knowledge that they will eventually settle down into a more predictable rhythm. As you grow accustomed to experiencing them, it’s a good idea to pay attention to possible triggers.
A very common trigger is stress, both physical and mental. Try to identify what causes you stress, and to experiment with different ways of reducing it. Some popular methods include:
- Addressing issues at work and reorganising a work/ life balance
- Practising yoga
- Holistic therapies, such as acupuncture or massage.
- A good diet and regular exercise
If you’re worried about experiencing a hot flush in public, remember that it is a common problem and that most people will be very sympathetic. It’s important to keep in mind that the menopause is not a taboo.
Every woman goes through it, and chances are that many of the women around you will have already experienced the same. If you’re particularly worried, excuse yourself for a few moments, go somewhere quiet and allow yourself a minute or so to cool down.
Self Help Remedies for Hot Flushes
Here are some other ways to try to ease your symptoms:
- Keep your room cool and well ventilated and use an electric fan if necessary
- Keep a spray atomiser filled with cool water or a cold gel pack nearby to refresh your face and body
- Sip cold drinks
- Make sure that your bedroom is cool and sleep with layers on the bed so that you can remove them if necessary
- Wear loose layers of light cotton clothes so you can take off some clothes if you overheat
- Cut out tea and coffee and cut down on alcohol
- Avoid spicy foods
- If you smoke, try to give up or if you don’t, avoid being exposed to cigarette smoke
- Have a lukewarm bath or shower rather than a hot one
- Keep a journal so that you can see a pattern and identify things which trigger your symptoms
When to Seek Medical Help
For most people, hot flushes are a minor inconvenience and are easily managed. However, if you find that your hot flushes are causing you significant problems on a day-to-day basis, speak to your GP. Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) is sometimes recommended to combat hot flushes; but as a general rule, it tends to be seen as a ‘last resort’, as it may increase the risk of stroke and other associated conditions.
The theme of the 2021 World Menopause Day is Bone Health. According to the International Menopause Societys White Paper:
“In healthy bone, up to the menopause, the production of new bone happens more than the removal of old bone, but the opposite happens after the menopause. After your last menstrual period your ovaries stop the production of the hormone oestrogen. This leads to increased removal of bone which results in decreased bone strength. Age related changes also lead to increased removal of bone.”
Above all else, remember that the menopause is not a medical condition. It is a very natural part of your body’s development. Don’t be afraid to talk about your symptoms with friends, family and your GP, in order to identify a coping strategy that works best for you.
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For more detailed information on many issues connected with the menopause, you may like to click on the articles at the foot of this page or visit the website of Menopause Matters via this link.
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