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Hormones and Hot Flashes

What causes a hot flash?

Hot flashes, or the feeling of warmth that spreads throughout the body of women prior to or during menopause, is still a mystery to health care providers. What causes hot flashes remains unknown; while the sensation of heat has been attributed to the complex hormonal changes that accompany menopause, which causes a disorder in thermoregulation. With lower levels of estrogen present, the hypothalamus (responsible for controlling body temperature) can sometimes be confused by the hormonal change and spark a reaction that causes a hot flash. The body then responds through the heart, blood vessels and nervous system to get rid of the heat, thus causing perspiration.

Why do hot flashes affect women differently?

Hot flashes can occur a few times a week for one woman, while plaguing another several times a day. For some women hot flashes come on as a sudden intense rush of heat that leaves them dripping in perspiration, while others may notice their face is flush and a bit damp. Hot flashes can last only a few minutes or up to an hour and usually occur between 6am and 8am and again in the evening between 6pm and 10pm.

Health care providers cannot predict the severity or presence of side effects of menopause, like hot flashes, but may recommend lifestyle modifications, medications or natural remedies to manage side effects.

When should you talk to your doctor about your hot flashes or other symptoms of menopause?

It is reported as many as 85 percent of women experience hot flashes prior to and during menopause. An estimated 10 to 15 percent of women seek medical attention for severe hot flashes. Women who have had breast cancer, a “quick” menopause or a surgical menopause are more likely to experience severe hot flashes and seek medical treatment. If you are having problems managing your hot flashes, consult with a health care provider.

What are triggers for a hot flash?

Identifying potential triggers for a hot flash can help women manage the severity and occurrence of their hot flashes. For many women, stress is a leading trigger. Health care providers recommend women to document how they were feeling, what they were doing and eating prior to a hot flash to identify trends. Other triggers may include alcohol, caffeine, spicy food, and smoking.

Menopause can last up to seven years. What lifestyle modifications can women make during those years to minimize the side effects?

As mentioned, stress can dramatically impact side effects of menopause. Women can make changes in their daily routines to help minimize that stress a number of ways. It is important to continue or increase physical activity and exercise during menopause, which can help reduce hot flashes and regulate mood swings. A supportive network of friends is also important. Women should schedule regular time with friends to maintain an active support network. Relaxation exercises or meditation can also help reduce stress.

If you have questions about menopause and side effects, Silver Elite is hosting a free seminar with Utica Park Clinic Ob-Gyn Dr. Danielle DeMarzo January 29 at the Northeast Technology Center in Claremore.  To register, call 918-579-6060 or register online.

Silver Elite is a FREE program that offers fun events and in-hospital benefits for ages 60+, the only requirement for joining. Call 918-579-6060 or visit SilverElite.org to learn more.