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Cooling Those Hot Flashes

Summer doesn't have to mean misery for menopausal women

(HealthDay is the new name for HealthScoutNews.)

SUNDAY, July 27, 2003 (HealthDayNews) -- Hot flashes can lead to sleepless nights for women experiencing menopause, but summer's heat can make the hot flashes exceptionally uncomfortable.

Hot flashes are the most common symptom of menopause, occurring in as many as 75 percent of menopausal women, according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG). The flashes are believed to be caused by rapid drops in estrogen levels that occur as women approach the end of their reproductive years, typically in their late 40s to early 50s.

While many believe the hormonal changes of menopause directly cause mood swings, experts say the loss of sleep from hot flashes, in fact, can play a large role in affecting mood and levels of stress.

In addition to trying to stay cool and sleep in cool, air-conditioned places during the summer, there are other lifestyle changes that doctors also recommend to reduce the discomfort of menopause during summer.

For one thing, try to stay fit by exercising. Studies have shown that menopausal and postmenopausal women who exercise regularly experience fewer hot flashes. In addition, try eating a low-fat, low-cholesterol, high-fiber diet, recommends ACOG.

If you smoke, by all means, try to quit if you can, and try to consume plenty of calcium and vitamin D.

Hormone replacement therapy, once the most commonly recommended treatment to reduce the symptoms of menopause, is now a hotly debated option due to recent research linking it to health risks such as heart disease and certain cancers.

If hot flashes or other menopausal symptoms are causing discomfort, however, the most important advice is to see your doctor before making any decisions.

More information

Visit the National Women's Health Information Center for more information on menopause and other women's issues.

SOURCES: American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists
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