The term hot flash is one most women in menopause are familiar with. Hot flashes are characterized by a sudden rise in body heat focused on the upper half of the body. Racing heart beat, sweating, and nausea are also common symptoms associated with the typical menopause hot flash. Menopause women have learned to expect hot flashes, but how much do they really know about what is happening in the body?
What Causes Hot Flashes?
When a women enters menopause, estrogen levels fade to near non-existent levels. Estrogen works with the hypothalamus to regulate body temperature. The hypothalamus is the internal thermometer everyone has to keep the body from getting too hot or too cold at any given time. When estrogen levels drop, the hypothalamus seems to react with hot flashes, but doctors have no idea why this reaction occurs.
When a hot flash begins, the confused hypothalamus sends out a signal to force all extra heat out of the body – at one time. Thanks to several brain chemicals, the message hits the entire body at once and heat the instant heating process begins. Heart rate increases, the skin starts to sweat, and blood vessels grow larger to accommodate the extra supply of heated blood. For some women, the rise in skin temperature can quickly reach 10 degrees Fahrenheit before the body instantly cools down causing profuse sweating.
Who Suffers From Hot Flashes?
At least 85% of women will suffer from hot flashes as they approach menopausal years. Of these women, around 30 to 40% will continue to suffer from many years after menopause. Luckily, as time passes, the intensity tends to fade a bit.
All women will suffer differently from hot flashes. Some feel increased heat for only a few moments, while others suffer four several minutes or more. Dealing with hot flashes can take practice and preparation.
How to Deal With Hot Flashes in Public
In the privacy of a home, women can choose to deal with hot flashes in many ways, but in the middle of a board meeting or business presentation, there are limited options. The first reaction should be one of calm. Being panicked about having a hot flash will increase heart rate even more leading to more heat and more sweating. If possible, ask to leave the room for just a moment while the hot flash passes. Splashing cold water on the face and fanning skin can help ease sweating and heat.
A Few Facts About Hot Flashes
- Some women suffer from severe hot flashes that require medical attention.
- Breast cancer (active and in remission) can increase the severity of hot flashes.
- Thin women suffer hot flashes more often and more severely than thicker women.