Jo Turgeon meets with Dr. Janell Powell to discuss her hot flashes
For some women they are as embarrassing to talk about as they are to experience but hot flashes are nothing to be ashamed of. In fact, three out of every four women will experience hot flashes at some point in their life.
They can make the coldest day feel like it's mid July. Hot flashes are on the back of every woman's mind but Jo Turgeon says she was still caught a little by surprise.
"About four or five years ago I started having seldom (symptoms) where I would get really flushed and hot. Then I pretty much went through seeing Dr. Powell and doing my regular check up and we determined that they were hot flashes." said Turgeon.
They are the most common symptom of menopause. Some women tolerate them better than others, but hot flashes are that annoying reminder of the aging process.
"The simple way I put it to them is that what happens is, something gets in and turns up the thermostat so they just kind of run warmer and then they will have these episodes of the hot flashes and night sweats." said Dr. Janell Powell an internist with the Avera Medical Group Internal Medicine Women's.
When a woman goes through menopause her body produces less estrogen. That imbalance of hormones is what is thought to trigger the symptom of hot flashes in the brain, specifically the hypothalamus. This part of the brain is what regulates body temperature. There's no sure fire way to stop the rush of heat and perspiration but that doesn't mean they can't be limited.
"Something that I talk to women about is lifestyle change, really working to identify what triggers their hot flashes and what can they do to avoid them." said Dr. Powell.
For Jo, several small changes have definitely made an impact.
"Really what it's kind of a combination of exercise, eating right, not drinking very much red wine, and then managing stress and it's kind of a whole approach like that." said Turgeon.
Some women are helped by over-the-counter supplements or anti-depressants but simply tolerating them and letting hot flashes run their course is also an option.
"You don't have to do anything because again the greater percent of the time they will gradually resolve on their own but if it gets to be more of a quality of life issue then I think you need to sit down with your physician and talk about what your options are." said Dr. Powell.
When her symptoms flared up, Jo met with Dr. Powell and developed a plan. While it's not fool-proof, it's a way for her to take control and embrace the change.
"I think really my message and probably my message from Dr. Powell is to not treat it like it's this terrible thing, you can manage it and you can live with it and it's not the end." said Turgeon.
A positive attitude like Jo's can make all the difference between surviving and thriving during the passage through midlife. Hormone therapy is an option to replace the lost estrogen but only in extreme situations and in low doses to avoid an increased risk of developing breast cancer. For more information about hot flashes just call 877-AT-AVERA.