According to some estimates, eight out of 10 women experience hot flashes during perimenopause and menopause. If you haven’t gotten there yet and are wondering whether you’ll be one of them, the answer might lie with your mother and grandmother.
A recent study published in the Journal of the North American Menopause Society led by principal investigator Carolyn J. Crandall, MD, of the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, found that a certain genetic variation was determined to strongly correlate with an increased risk of hot flashes during menopause.
For the research, Dr. Crandall and her team examined data from over 17,000 women aged 50 to 79 around the country and found that there is a genetic variation that increases the likelihood of experiencing hot flashes during perimenopause.
The study links a “higher risk of vascular motor symptoms, such as hot flashes and night sweats, to a variation located on chromosome four.” As the cause of hot flashes appears to be genetic, it is suggested that it may be an inherited trait. If you mother or grandmother suffered from hot flashes, the same fate may be in store for you.
If you are worried about hot flashes or currently suffering through them, there are some things you can do to relieve the symptoms.
The most effective way to relieve the discomfort of hot flashes is to take estrogen, but this hormone carries risks (you can learn more about the risks and benefits here.) If estrogen is appropriate for you, you should start it within 10 years of your last menstrual period or before age 60 for it to be the most effective.
Hormone replacement therapy, antidepressants, and other prescription medications could also be considered — all of which you should discuss with your doctor.
Lifestyle changes can often help, too. These include:
- Stay cool. Slight increases in your body’s core temperature can trigger hot flashes. Dress in layers so you can remove clothing when you feel warm. Open windows or use a fan or air conditioner. If you feel a hot flash coming on, sip a cold drink and keep ice-packs in the freezer for quick relief.
- Watch what you eat and drink. Avoid eating spicy foods, caffeinated beverages and alcohol as all of these can trigger hot flashes.
- Keep a diary. Learn to recognize your triggers and avoid them by writing down when a flash occurs and looking for clues as to what precipitated it.
- Relax. Some women find relief from mild hot flashes through meditation, deep breathing, or other stress-reducing techniques. These can also help with sleep, which is often interrupted by hot flashes.
- Don’t smoke. Smoking is linked to increased hot flashes. It also stimulates your adrenaline, which increases overall body temperature.
- Try to lose weight. If you’re overweight or obese, losing weight might help ease your hot flashes.
Stay cool out there.