5 clever tips for getting rid of hot flashes

Eighty percent of women experience hot flashes and night sweat as they move through menopause. While most women aren't too bothered by them, but others the symptoms can make life miserable. Here's how to keep hot flashes to a minimum.

5 clever tips for getting rid of hot flashes

It begins as warmth in your chest, then slowly rises into your neck and face. A few minutes later, you're chilled and shivering. It's not a fever but a hot flash, something 80 percent of women experience as they move through the menopausal transition. Most women aren't too bothered by them, but for some, hot flashes and their nocturnal cousins, night sweats, can make life miserable. Here's how to keep hot flashes to a minimum.

1. Take hormone replacement therapy (HRT)

Nothing works as well as supplemental estrogen to cool hot flashes, with studies finding it reduces episodes by up to 90 percent. The key is to take the lowest possible dose for the shortest possible time.

  • Although a major study found higher rates of breast cancer, heart disease and stroke in women who took an estrogen-plus-progestin drug (progestin is included with estrogen therapy to lower the risk of uterine cancer) and higher rates of stroke in women who took an estrogen-only drug, major medical organizations say it's safe to use HRT short-term (a year or two) to get you through the worst of the menopausal transition.
  • The risks of any health problems are even lower if you're under 60.

2. Take a soy supplement

Make it one that contains isoflavone aglycones, phytoestrogens found in soy products.

  • A study of 190 menopausal women who received either a placebo or 40 or 60 milligrams a day of a supplement containing these compounds for 12 weeks had about half as many hot flashes by the study's end, while the placebo group had about 39 percent fewer hot flashes.
  • In another study, women who took an extract containing 40 milligrams of isoflavones every day for 10 months reported that the severity of their hot flashes dropped by 70 percent, compared to a 34 percent drop in the placebo group.
  • Don't overdo it with soy, however; large amounts could slightly increase your risk of breast cancer. If you've already had an estrogen-dependent form of breast cancer, skip the soy.

3. Try antidepressants

No, not for depression, but to prevent hot flashes.

  • Researchers trying to find non-estrogen options to relieve hot flashes in women with breast cancer stumbled onto the cooling benefits of certain antidepressants prescribed in lower-than-normal doses.
  • These include venlafaxine, fluoxetine and paroxetine. Studies find they can reduce the number of hot flashes by up to 63 percent compared to a placebo.

4. Drop a dress size

  • Researchers used to think that having a bit of extra padding would actually reduce hot flashes because hormones in body fat called androgens are converted to estrogen, which helps prevent hot flashes. It turns out they were wrong.
  • A study of women ages 47 to 59 found that those with the highest percentages of body fat were about 27 percent more likely to have hot flashes than those with lower percentages.
  • Ideally, aim for body fat levels below 33 percent (but above five percent).
  • There are devices you can buy to measure your body fat percentage; your gym may have one. Your doctor can also perform a more accurate test. In this study, the average body fat percentage was 37.9.
  • Consider a couple of sessions with a personal trainer to get you started.

5. See a homeopath

Homeopathy is a controversial treatment option, and very few studies have been done on its effects on hot flashes.

  • One study, however, had 99 physicians in eight countries prescribe homeopathic medicines to 438 women with hot flashes. The most prescribed medicines were lachesis, belladonna, sepia, sulphur and sanguinaria.
  • Ninety percent of the women said their symptoms either disappeared or were not nearly as severe.
  • Find a practitioner trained in homeopathy rather than trying to treat yourself.

Hot flashes can be incredibly uncomfortable and difficult to control. Try these proven remedies today and control your hot flashes by finding a method that works.

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