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Cool Facts About Heating Up - The Menopause Hot Flash

Nov 3, 2007
There it goes again! Another unannounced hot flash!

Without a prescription or an expensive trip to your OB/GYN, there are some options a woman can appropriate to try to keep hot flashes at bay, or at the least, minimize their intensity and frequency. So the next time you find yourself revisited by the heat demon, you might want to consider one or all of them. Look at it this way. What have you got to lose? ... Except maybe the time it takes to change into drier clothes, a quick make-up touchup, and the price of another box of tissues to dab away the perspiration.

Over recent years, there has been, and continues to be, significant testing done about the symptoms of menopause. It has been found that menopausal women complain more about hot flashes than any other symptom, even above the lack of sexual drive which usually also accompanies menopause. Because many women have a fear of serious side effects with taking hormonal replacement therapy drugs, or they just don't have the time, money, or the inclination to address these menopause symptoms with alternative medications, they're essentially at a loss as to what to do about the symptoms. For lack of information, they then assume they just have to wait it out and hope for the best.

Most recently however, researchers have found its just simple common sense that seems to rule for women experiencing menopause but are not taking medication. By making a few simple preparations, and modifying behavior and habits slightly, you can definitely feel a difference, which will also go well with the new optimistic attitude you'll gain.

According to Colette Bouchez of WebMD, "Doctors label hot flashes a vasomotor symptom -- a series of biochemical events that unfold when your temperature controlling mechanism goes slightly awry. The result: Your body thinks you're overheated, even when you're not."

So what does a hot flash feel like? I would liken it to entering a sauna fully clothed, and being required to sit there with no way out for, let's say ... about 5 minutes. When your time's up, you exit the sauna drenched in perspiration. Your body now becomes chilled and the bumps on your damp skin prove it. The quick change in temperature has you immediately grabbing for a blanket to cover yourself because now you're 'freezing'. Once you've traded the sticky, clinging clothes for drier, warmer ones, a little time passes. Then, when you least expect it, your internal 'sauna' kicks in and you get to do it all over again! Oh, joy of joys!

While encountering different trials while traveling this road called life, I've often wondered about how those of the past handled similar situations. This is certainly one of those times. Just how did the women of the day carry on through the menopausal years without hormonal replacement therapies, required naps due to migraine headaches, and all the body aches that make you feel 15 years older than you really are?

They spent their time in the fields with their husbands, cooking and canning vegetables, and carrying wood. Were they just stronger than we are today? Have we become so soft and pampered with our modern conveniences that we now grumble about everything?

In this day of advanced technology, space travel, and ingenious, innovative gadgets, you would think something could be done about hot flashes. I dare say that not all "advancements" are for the better. Maybe it's time we look back, instead of ahead, and learn from our past counterparts.

Just as in days gone by, there are things we can do right now, to help relieve the hot flashes without the use of hormones. Most would simply call it 'common sense'. We do have some advantages, however, that previous women didn't have, so let's explore some of them.

First, pay close attention to what you wear. This may sound simple enough, but the truth is, it can make a big difference in your hot flashes. Some of the synthetic, manmade fabrics hold heat to a much greater degree than other natural fibers. Some of the most notorious to stay away from are nylon, spandex, and close-knit polyesters. Because they hold heat, they don't allow you to cool down nearly as fast as cotton, or other natural fabrics. Consequently, your hot flash will certainly last longer, and possibly even be more intense.

For those hot flashes that occur while you sleep (more commonly known as 'night sweats'), get rid of those pretty nylon nighties and satin pajamas, and trade your polyester sheets in for cotton ones. Believe me. You'll be much sexier to your husband in dry cotton pajamas than in sweaty silk ones, too.

Also, dress for your climate. Heavy sweaters will certainly keep you warm on those snowy days, but when a hot flash erupts, there's no way for you to cool down afterward to avoid the chills. Wear layers. You'll find it much easier and more comfortable to remove the needed layers at will, than to suffer with that beautiful but expensive sweater you can't do anything about. It will save on the dry cleaning bill, too. If you must wear a sweater, make it a cardigan so you can button or unbutton when the heat demon visits.

Be active and exercise whenever you can. If you don't have time, make time! Although many menopausal women think that exercise will increase the hot flashes, doctors have actually found the reverse to be true. In exercising daily, whether it's taking walks, biking, running, swimming, or whatever activity you're comfortable with, you'll find that over time, hot flashes will decrease in frequency, and may even decrease in intensity. Hallelujah!

If you're at home, you can also take advantage of cold water. If you'll think back to the old western movies, you may remember how the hot, arid conditions were emphasized when traveling through the West. As an older child, I distinctly remember watching the dust fly from the horses' hooves when the good guys chased the bad guys. Something else I remember; the beautiful women usually carried a cloth "hanky". They'd moisten it and femininely dab their brow and face from time to time. I used to think it was from the hot sun. Now I know it was their hot flashes!

Don't underestimate ice. It's lousy if you're trying to drive on it, but it's a godsend when you need to cool down quickly. Ice cubes work great. Hold one to your pulse points; your wrist, inside your elbow, on back of your knee, or the back of your neck. If you hold it in a washcloth, you won't have that irritating "melt" running down your back or leg. If your hot flash attacks at the office, head for the soda machine and use the cold can on your pulse points instead of the ice. Every little bit helps.

If you'd rather go "hi-tech", there is a gel-filled 'scarf' you can buy. Keep it in the freezer and place it on the back of your neck when the heat begins creeping up on you. It stays cold for over an hour and the best part ... it doesn't drip!

Women who reside in cooler homes or work in cooler offices tend to have fewer hot flashes as well. So, keep the fan handy from January through December. Concerning outside heat sources, it's also advisable to avoid hot showers, whirlpool tubs, and Jacuzzis. Anything that helps to raise body temperature should be sidestepped.

Check your breathing pattern. Often times, when women become excited, they change their breathing, which in turn increases oxygen levels, which then also increases warmth. It's the perfect combination to jumpstart a real hot flash. So, take a deep breath and relax, especially if you become stressed. It can decrease the number of hot flashes you experience as much as 50%.

In speaking about common sense; ironically, common "scents" can also make a difference. The scents of lavender, vanilla, and lemongrass, as well as essential oils like ylang-ylang, geranium, and clary sage, have been found to bring on a relaxing sensation. They have a calming affect to the body and can decrease hot flashes, too.

On the other side of the coin, there are certain perfumes and chemical smells that can easily heighten the frequency and intensity of hot flashes. Because many of these are dependant on the genetics of each individual woman, it's a good idea to practice keeping the calming fragrances around.

One last deterrent to hot flashes is decreasing or quitting smoking. Studies have shown that cigarettes can exacerbate hot flashes because they trigger hormonal changes, particularly in thin women. So, the bottom line is, cutting back on the number of cigarettes you smoke is good, while quitting altogether is best.

So, next time you're watching an old Western and you see the heroine wiping her brow; remember. Grab your cardigan and go for a walk. When you return, take a cool shower, don your cotton pajamas, get your soda and your ice cube, light your lavender candle, sit back, take a deep breath ... and relax. It will all be over soon.
About the Author
Dawn M. Olsen is an Advocate for Better Women's Health through Education. Find out more about how to approach your menopause symptoms relief at http://www.menopauseatoz.com
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