KABC7: Women Have Healthy Treatment Options for Hot Flashes
Chrisandra Shufelt, MD, director of the Women's Hormone and Menopause Program in the Barbra Streisand Women's Heart Center, recently sat down with KABC7 Health Reporter Denise Dador to discuss new treatment options for hot flashes, insomnia, painful sex, thinning bones and other symptoms of menopause.
Most of those symptoms are linked to lower estrogen levels during menopause, Shufelt told Dador. That is why Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) has been a common treatment for decades. Doctors long thought that replacing lost estrogen and/or progesterone could help protect from heart disease, osteoporosis and cancer, while simultaneously warding off hot flashes.
But starting in 2002, studies began showing that longterm hormone therapy poses serious risks to many women, including a heightened possibility of heart attack and stroke. Now, hormone replacement therapy is primarily reserved for women younger than 60 who don't have risk factors for heart attack and stroke.
"It's a personal choice whether or not you want to take estrogen and it's based on risk," said Shufelt, a certified menopause practitioner.
"No one has to suffer in silence and you should talk to your doctor about menopause."
Today, Shufelt is likely to ask her patients to start combatting menopause symptoms by making some lifestyle changes, including losing weight, exercising regularly and eliminating foods and drinks like coffee and spicy foods that can trigger hot flashes.
Accupuncture also has been shown to be an effective treatment. In fact, Cedars-Sinai researchers found acupuncture was 40 to 50 percent effective in treating hot flashes and even more effective in treating other menopausal symptoms such as problems with sleep.
If the lifestyle changes and accupuncture don't provide relief, Shufelt said, there are some other prescription medications like gabapentin and venlafaxine that have been proven effective.
"No one has to suffer in silence and you should talk to your doctor about menopause," said Shufelt.