It’s almost summer. For most, summer equals fun. But for the millions of women in perimenopause or already in menopause, the heat of summer means increased hot flashes.
Hot flashes are caused by a sudden release of heat accompanied by sweating. Blood vessels under the skin dilate suddenly to let off heat. That causes the skin temperature to rise by 5° to 7° Fahrenheit. The evaporating sweat can cause chills. It feels like you’re on fire…and then you’re cold.
Hot flashes notoriously cause poor sleep, discomfort and embarrassment; but they also can impact women in the workplace. A 2014 study in the journal Menopause found untreated hot flashes could cost $14 billion dollars and roughly 50 million additional doctor’s visits annually…just for hot flashes.
While hormone therapy (HT) isn’t the only treatment for hot flashes, it’s the most effective. But the 2002 Women’s Health Initiative (WHI) study incorrectly reported that HT increased the risk of breast cancer and more. That caused eighty percent of women to stop taking it. And that caused millions of women to “tough it out.”
But the WHI study got it wrong. The study compared women who got HT with women who took a placebo. And although the ages of both groups were between 50 to 79 years, 75% of the placebo group was ages 50 to 59 while 75% of the HT group was ages 60 to 79.
And of course, the older women had more medical problems.
But a recent reevaluation of the same study matched the women by age. Women starting HT in their estrogen window – between the ages of 50-59 or within 10 years of starting menopause – avoided almost all the negative findings, and lived longer than the women who started HT later.
If summer has you struggling with hot flashes, don’t sweat it. You can stay cool by lowering stress, avoiding alcohol and cigarettes, spicy foods, dressing in layers, placing a few ice cubes in a swath of fabric on your neck, or losing some weight – one study found losing 11 pounds decreased hot flashes by 33%. There are also over the counter alternatives, alternative therapies, and one prescription non-estrogen – Brisdelle.
But if you want the most effective treatment for hot flashes, talk with your doctor about HT. It’s safe for most women.
To Find out how much your perimenopause and menopause symptoms are impacting your life, take the menopause quiz at www.MenopauseQuiz.com.
For more information on HT, please check out my best selling book The Estrogen Fix.