Researchers and physicians theorize that menopausal symptoms are a combination of a dramatic fluctuation or reduction in estrogen levels, variations in the fat cell hormone known as leptin and a drop in blood sugar. Hot flashes and night sweats are the most common complaints of women going through perimenopause and menopause. Symptomatic relief involves many different lifestyle changes. Women may also seek medical intervention when the problem becomes severe.
Hot Flashes and Night Sweats
Hot flashes are physiological events that begin when women feel an intense heat rise upward through their body to the neck and head regions. Beads of perspiration appear and flow downward. The condition progresses to profuse sweating that may involve the entire body. Each instance lasts up to five minutes. When the episode takes place while asleep, the condition is known as night sweats. Studies indicate that approximately 75 percent of women endure the uncomfortable experience, which may occur a couple of times during the course of a week or up to 30 times within a single day.
Research involving hundreds of women of varying weights revealed that overweight or obese females suffer more hot flash episodes. Women who lost weight over the course of six months noticed a significant reduction in the number of events experienced. Committing to getting at least 30 minutes of physical exercise at least three times per week not only helps weight reduction efforts but also elevates mood, improves cardiovascular health, enhances bone health and plays a role in minimizing hot flashes.
Women should stick to a balanced diet that includes fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Limit the number of saturated fats and sugars, and avoid heated or spicy foods. Caffeine, alcoholic beverages and smoking often exacerbate the problem. Health care providers may also recommend that women take a calcium supplement.
Regulate Body Temperature
Wear cool, lightweight clothing during warm months and layers during the winter that can easily be removed when a hot flash occurs. At night, bedding and clothing should be lightweight cotton, which wicks moisture away from the body and does not as readily entrap body heat. While indoors, control environmental temperatures by lowering the thermostat as needed, open a window, turn on a fan or the air conditioning. Sip iced beverages continually to reduce internal body temperature. Learn relaxation techniques that help reduce stress hormone levels through deep breathing, listening to music or meditating.
Women may opt to receive estrogen and progestin supplements through their physician. However, using the hormones for an extended period of time has been associated with an increased risk of developing blood clots, cardiovascular disease and breast cancer. For some women, prescription antidepressants, anti-seizure and blood pressure medications help control hot flashes.