Improving Quality of Life…One Hot Flash At A Time

Sireesha Reddy, M.D., professor and vice chair in the Department of Ob/Gyn, TTUHSC at El Paso, was recently awarded a SEED grant to uncover some of the mystery surrounding hot flashes. The title of the research is “Studying the impact of exercise on hot flashes using mobile heat flux sensor, MENQOL scale and hot flash diary”. Here are a few details.

Why did you decide to do this study? Menopausal symptoms affect many women in their peak productive years.  Often, these symptoms interfere with their quality of life. For some women with breast cancer, who often go through menopause soon after chemotherapy, we cannot offer them the traditional therapies of hormone replacement which is the most efficacious for hot flashes.  So, as physicians, we need to maximize our armament of therapies whether they are pharmocotherapies or other alternatives to pharma.  However, we need to test these alternatives so that when we offer an option, it is because we know it works. I have done one of the only study that compares a non-hormonal medication, gabapentin, to the gold standard, estrogen, for hormone replacement.  One of the issues with that study, and other hot flash studies, is the hot flash measurement.  We have nothing that is mobile that measures hot flashes in real time.  The prior studies used diaries based on recall and the patient’s motivation to record data on a piece of paper or device.  Wouldn’t it be nice to have a device that moves with the patient, records data as it is occurring and take away any recall errors?  The new exercise devices do just that—measure skin conductance and have the ability to record. The advantage to using the mobile heat flux sensors is that they can be used to test multiple parameters including basal metabolic rate.  We now know that yoga and acupuncture can improve hot flashes.  The mechanism is not known.  We are testing the theory that exercise influences the metabolic rate and increases the threshold for which a hot flash is triggered.

Why is this data valuable? So we can provide alternatives to medications for hot flash therapy. Simple exercise regimens could be an alternative to medication — especially hormones for those who cannot or do not want to take hormones.

The study will begin this fall. Perimenopausal women with hot flashes who experience more than seven hot flashes per day with no limitations to exercise will be allowed to participate. There will be a two week period of baseline hot flash recording; then the subjects will be asked to follow a six-week exercise regimen that has an incremental change in exercise regimen over the time of participation. The exercise regimen chosen produces changes in basal metabolic rate through evidence in other studies validating the regimen.

With the help of our junior faculty, Dr. Patricia Rojas-Mendez; our breast cancer, quality of life and survivorship expert Dr. Zeina Nahleh; and Temple University menopause expert Dr. Judith Balk, we have a wealth of experts to help recruit and conduct the study.