Hot Flashes and Night Sweats
Updated: Jan 31
Menopause plays havoc with a woman's temperature control system. Studies have shown that as many as 80% of women report moderate to severe hot flashes and/or night sweats.
Estrogen helps manage our core temperature, in part, by controlling blood flow to the skin and sweating. During perimenopause estrogen levels fluctuate (sometimes wildly). Our brain overreacts to these estrogen fluctuations and decides that the body is too hot, which women experience as hot flashes and night sweats.
Doctors used to dismiss hot flashes and night sweats as simply "bothersome" and "part of getting older." But these symptoms may also be correlated with higher levels of depression. A study presented at the 2022 North American Menopause Society (NAMS) annual meeting identified that women who reported the highest hot flash frequency at night had significantly higher depression scores than women who experienced hot flashes during the day. The authors of the study wrote “These results support previous studies that found that sleep disruptions during menopause have a significant effect on quality of life and suggest that night sweats may have more severe consequences than hot flashes.” Other research has linked severe hot flashes and night sweats to increased risk for cardiovascular disease, weight gain, and appearance of early markers of risk for cognitive decline, dementia, and stroke, and memory issues. Women should not just wear lighter clothes, use a fan, or "suffer through it."
Don't delay in finding a physician to work with you to decrease the frequency and severity of your hot flash/night sweat symptoms. Available treatments may not eliminate all hot flashes, but they can make a big difference in your quality of life. Your doctor will likely discuss lifestyle changes, menopause hormone therapy, nonhormonal prescription drugs, and supplements. You have many options...you just need a doctor willing to work with you to find the best combination.
If you are having difficulty finding a physician who will work with you in managing hot flashes look for the North America Menopause Society (NAMS) certification. The NAMS website includes a directory of all NCMP-certified providers in North America.
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