Hot flashes are one of the most common symptoms of menopause. According to WebMD, more than two thirds of women get hot flashes during perimenopause. For many women, they continue past menopause. For some women, they are a minor inconvenience, for other women they can result in being drenched in sweat. If this occurs at night (called night sweats) it can prevent you from getting a good night’s sleep. You may feel constantly tired which prevents you from doing the things you want.
What are hot flashes?
If you’ve had a hot flash you likely know what they are, but not all women experience them in the same way. In Britain, they are known as hot flushes and this might be a more accurate description for some women. They can appear as a sudden flash or may come on slowly and build up. You may experience heat all over the body, but they are usually most intense in the upper body and face. Your face may go red and you may start sweating. Your heart rate may speed up.
When they occur at night they are known as night sweats. You might wake up drenched in sweat when this occurs.
We don’t know exactly what causes hot flashes during menopause
Unfortunately, the causes of hot flashes during menopause are not completely known. The hypothalamus is a part of the brain that regulates temperature. The hypothalamus appears to be sensitive to changing estrogen levels although the mechanism is not completely clear. We know that hormone therapy usually eliminates hot flashes so the inconsistency of hormone levels during perimenopause is somehow responsible. What is clear is that hot flashes become a big problem for many women during perimenopause and even after menopause.
Keep your cool
Not surprisingly, hot flashes are often related to being hotter. A small change in temperature, that previously would have barely been noticeable somehow triggers a flash. For instance, if you exercise in clothes that are too heavy, and start to warm up a little (even before you break a sweat), a hot flash may occur.
You can keep cool by using a cooling towel like this one from Koldtec, by dressing in layers, or by sleeping in a cool room.
Some common triggers
Hot flashes can be triggered by many other things:
- The foods we eat can trigger hot flashes (or help to improve them). Spicy foods, sugar,
- Smoking can trigger hot flashes.
- Caffeine and alcohol consumption can lead to hot flashes for some women.
- Anxiety and stressful situations seem to trigger hot flashes for many women.
- Hyperthyroidism also can contribute to hot flashes.
Tackle your weight
Being overweight seems to make hot flashes worse. You will likely find that if you lose some excess weight that your hot flashes improve. Unfortunately, the feeling of fatigue from lack of sleep can prevent many women from tackling their weight issues.
Generally making positive changes in your lifestyle and eating habits have a positive effect on the severity and the frequency of hot flashes. If you are suffering from fatigue, you will want to approach the changes slowly.
It is also important to note that there are other causes of hot flashes. Thyroid problems, anxiety, and some more serious conditions can cause hot flashes. Thyroid problems can have other symptoms that are similar to symptoms of menopause, so if you have concerns you might want to get your thyroid levels checked out.
If you are suffering from hot flashes, you may want to check with your physician to see what types of medications are available for relief. If you prefer to try more natural methods check out Hot Flash Help Program.