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Less stress, fewer hot flashes?

Less stress, fewer hot flashes?

by Dr. Barb DePree MD

If you want to reduce the likelihood of hot flashes, consider managing your stress level. Research shows that women with moderate anxiety were nearly three times more likely to report hot flashes compared with women who had normal levels of anxiety, even after adjusting for other factors like depression, smoking, and body mass index. 

Reduce the likelihood of hot flashes...Some stress is unavoidable, but the key is to manage it before it gets out of hand. Stress is a response to a threat (perceived or real), while anxiety is a reaction to the stress. If possible, eliminate stressful activities in your life. (Do you really need to be the chairperson of that fundraiser?) Beyond that, use tried-and-true techniques like exercising regularly, getting eight hours of sleep, and practicing mindfulness through yoga or meditation, and nurturing friendships. (The Anxiety and Depression Society of America offers a helpful infographic.)

If managing stress and avoiding other triggers (like alcohol and spicy food) doesn’t seem to be reducing hot flashes, there are other things you can try. Hormone therapy (estrogen and progesterone) is the most effective treatment, but some medications are used off-label to treat flashes. For example, about 50 percent of women who are on certain antidepressants (e.g., Venlafaxine, Paroxetine, Fluoxetine) enjoy a reduction in hot flashes, although the medical community doesn’t fully understand why. Gabapentin (an anti-seizure/pain management medication) and Clonidine (an antihypertensive medication) also seem to reduce hot flashes.

Some of my patients have used non-prescription products like Relizen and Femarelle (available only online) with some success, but remember that’s anecdotal evidence. We don’t have a lot of data on the effectiveness of herbal or over-the-counter products. 

Talk with your healthcare provider, who can help you decide which option is best for you.


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