Up to 75% of women will experience hot flashes during their lifetime, women going through menopause however, are the most likely to encounter them. Hot flashes are characterized by the sudden sensation of extreme heat spreading through the body, particularly across the face, neck, and chest. During a hot flash episode, women can experience increased heart rate, excessive sweating, and chills. Although the frequency and severity usually lessens with age, some women can find that their symptoms persist into postmenopause.
Why Do Hot Flashes Occur?
The exact cause of hot flashes remains unknown. However, the sensation is thought to be linked to decreased estrogen levels in the body. Because estrogen plays a vital role in many of the bodies functions, its reduction affects many of the body's procedures. The hypothalamus - the part of the brain that regulates body temperature, is just one affected portion. If and when the hypothalamus mistakenly perceives that the body is too hot, it tries to cool it down, and the result is what women experience as a hot flash.
When Do Hot Flashes Most Commonly Occur?
Hot flashes usually occur early in the morning.When they are experienced during the night, and cause women to wake drenched in sweat, they are referred to as night sweats.Because hot flashes experiences often vary in severity and frequency some women can continue with everyday activities, while others experiencing extreme hot flashes, might encounter more difficulties in day to day life.
How Long Do Hot Flashes Occur?
Hot flashes can vary in length, frequency, intensity, and duration. Some women may only experience them for a few months, while others suffer for several years before and after menopause.
How Can Hot Flashes Episodes Be Avoided?
There are a number of actions women can take to avoid hot flashes during menopause:
- Sit in cool areas near air conditioning vents and next to windows
- Maintain a healthy body weight
- Eat a balanced diet
- Exercise regularly to help balance hormones and boost your mood
- Avoid alcohol and caffeine
- Avoid smoking
There are various treatment methods available for those suffering from hot flashes during menopause. Three generalized approaches are, lifestyle changes, herbal remedies, and prescription medications. Making little lifestyle changes like those suggested can help most women find relief from their hot flashes. However, if your symptoms are more severe there are advanced treatment options which a doctor can discuss with you. One of the most commonly prescribed option is hormone replacement therapy (HRT); however, this comes with the potential to increase a woman's risk of cancer and heart disease.