Vasomotor symptoms — the medical term for hot flashes — are among the most common menopause symptoms women experience. Hot flashes, along with night sweats, can be uncomfortable and disruptive.
“During a hot flash a woman’s body temperature goes up by 1 to 3 degrees, and the heart rate also goes up by five to 10 beats,” said Dr. Suneela Vegunta, a Mayo Clinic women’s health physician.
That means the body’s temperature-regulating system is not working.
“Once the body perceives that the temperature has gone up, it tries to cool it down. And that’s how the sweats actually happen. Once the sweats happen, the body cools down, the temperature comes down,” she said.
That process can last up to 30 minutes, and it can be uncomfortable. Hormone therapy can be helpful.
“It is really effective in making the hot flashes, sweats and sleep problems get much better,” said Vegunta. “There are some women, especially women with breast cancer or prior blood clots, that cannot use hormone therapy.”
Acupuncture is one alternative to medication and might reduce the frequency and severity of hot flashes. Other nonhormonal approaches include mindfulness meditation, yoga and supplements.
Vegunta said the approaches can offer a “significant quality-of-life improve- ment with a significant reduction in the intensity, the frequency, the duration of these hot flashes and sweats.”