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What Causes Hot Flashes? How Do I Treat and Prevent Them?

Hot flashes can be annoying. One minute you’re going about your business, the next moment you’re sweating, your heart is pounding, your skin is flush, and you feel like you’ve been dipped in a tub of acid. Hot flashes are usually the first signs of menopause. That rapid increase in body heat, accompanied with sweating and a flushed face is most common with women undergoing the early stages of menopause. They mostly occur without warning. And sometimes cause some embarrassment and lots of discomforts. But what exactly are hot flashes? What causes hot flashes? Are they treatable? Are they preventable?

What Are Hot Flashes?

The sensation of an instant increase in body temperature can range from mildly disconcerting to totally unnerving. They are sometimes felt all over the body but mostly affect only the face and neck areas. It’s not clear why these irritating hot flashes occur. It’s also unclear why some people experience them while others don’t? While in some people the experience is transient and benign, in others it’s consistent and potentially harmful.

Nonetheless, studies show they are common in people facing changes in their circulatory system. Menopausal women, in particular, have higher incidences of hot flushes. Reports indicate that up to 65% of menopausal women experience at least one instance of hot flushes. Of those who experience them, over 80% will experience them in the early menopausal transition, between their late 40s and mid-50s.

Normally, when our body temperature rises, our blood vessels dilate to allow more blood circulate for cooling. When we are cold, our blood vessels contract to allow less blood through so as to conserve heat. This is called thermoregulation.

When we experience hot flashes, our blood vessels suddenly and inexplicably dilate. This is accompanied by a feeling of increased temperature and sweating. However, when a thermometer is used, there is rarely an increase in base body temperature. The dilation works in the opposite way of a normal thermoregulation process.

What Causes Hot Flashes?

Doctors and scientists are still trying to uncover what triggers the vasodilation. There is a general consensus that the hypothalamus, the part of the brain that controls and senses shifts in body temperature, might be responsible for what causes hot flashes.

One of the discoveries in the medical field is the declining levels of the hormone estrogen might be an underlying cause. Estrogen decline might trick the hypothalamus into sensing a rapid rise in temperature. Thus, it will send a signal triggering a response to quickly decrease body temperature. Hence the sweating and vasodilation.

Another reason for what causes hot flashes stems from a quick change in the external environment. For instance, on a hot summer day when you walk in from the outdoors into a cooled room, you might experience hot flashes. Additional triggers to watch out for include:

  • Heightened emotions
  • Anxiety
  • Stress
  • Diet issues
  • Medications
  • Cardiovascular problems
  • Cancers
  • Tuberculosis
  • Obesity
  • Hyperthyroidism
  • Fever

How Do I Prevent Hot Flashes?

The best way to prevent what causes hot flashes is to adopt healthy lifestyle choices. Some of the lifestyle changes that promote good health and can prevent hot flashes are:

  • Regular exercise
  • Drink plenty of clean plain water
  • Stop smoking tobacco cigarettes
  • Avoid caffeine and alcohol
  • Eat wholesome meals and well-balanced diets
  • Ensure regular bowel movements
  • Avoid self-medicating with over the counter drugs
  • Avoid clothing that’s too tight

How Do I Treat Hot Flashes?

For benign and transient hot flashes, it may work best to just wait out what causes hot flashes. However, for more serious and repeated bouts of hot flashes, you might need to take some action.

Daily exercise works well to regulate your circulation and thermoregulatory system. Do not overexert yourself. Start slow and work up to the recommended level. Swimming, walking, cycling, and dancing are some of the enjoyable pastimes that can give you a great workout.

Learn to relax. Deep breathing exercises and yoga poses will help your circulatory system and destress your mind.

Stay cool by wearing light clothing and using a chill pillow. Remember to drink lots of water too.

For persistent cases, talk to a hormone replacement therapy expert. Bioidentical hormones can work great to restore your hormonal balance.

Other medications may also help, but seek a doctor’s prescription first to avoid harmful side effects. Herbs and botanicals may offer some relief. Plant estrogens found in edamame and tofu can work to improve your hormonal balance.

Non-prescription medication may include ibuprofen, Vitamin B complex, and Vitamin E supplements.

Discover What Causes Hot Flashes And Prevention Methods

Hot flushes are caused by a sudden sensation of increased body temperature, usually accompanied by heavy sweating and an increased heart rate. It’s caused by sensory lapse in the hypothalamus of the brain, which might be triggered by changes in hormone levels.

To prevent hot flashes, make healthy lifestyle choices. Reduce smoking, caffeine, and alcohol intake. Exercise regularly, eat wholesome foods and drink plenty of water.

To treat hot flashes, talk to your doctor about Hormone Replacement Therapy. HRT not only treats and prevents hot flashes but helps in minimising other symptoms of menopause and aging.

References

University of Arizona Tucson College of Medicine – What Causes Hot Flushes During Menopause 

US National Library of Medicine – Postmenopausal Hot Flash

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