What are Hot Flashes?
Hot flashes or flushes can occur throughout the day whereas night sweats will be waking you up when you sleep.
A hot flash is a sudden overwhelming feeling of heat, felt mostly in the face, neck and chest. You might become red and start sweating. If you lose too much heat through sweating, you might then become chilled. Alongside the intense feeling of heat, you could experience a quickened heart beat and/or a feeling of anxiety. Hot flashes can come on in the most inopportune times; you are in front of people, you are in a place where you can’t change out of your incredibly sweat soaked clothes, you are turning red and people are starting to stare at you. All of these situations can be incredibly uncomfortable. Hot flashes can last for just a minute or less or up to 5 minutes or more. When they happen during the night, you will likely wake up in a pool of sweat. This makes getting back to sleep even tougher.
Why are hot flashes happening to me?
It’s all about our changing hormones. There are a couple of thoughts on this; our temperature threshold tends to narrow and our blood vessels become stiffer.
If you look at the top image, you will notice a much wider threshold. It has to be much hotter before you feel the heat and it has to be much colder before you feel the cold.
In the image below, notice how this threshold has narrowed considerable. Now, when the temperature increases just a couple of degrees, you are feeling super hot and when it’s just a bit cold, you are feeling chilly.
Why do hot flashes happen?
The area in the brain, the hypothalamus is likely involved. This is the area where we are sensing and regulating our response to temperature changes. When there is less estrogen, our bodies temperature system becomes more sensitive to the slightest of changes.
Our blood vessels change as well. They become stiffer and less pliable which makes them less able to dilate (get bigger) and constrict (become smaller) when there are temperature changes.
For example, when the sun is out and we are feeling the heat, our blood vessels dilate or widen. This allows more blood to be shunted to the surface of the skin allowing heat to leave the body and keep our core body temperature from becoming dangerously hot.
When it is cold out, our blood vessels constrict, minimizing heat loss which helps keep our core temperature from becoming dangerously cold.
As we age, our blood vessels, unfortunately, become stiffer. And, with estrogen loss, they become even stiffer. So, our blood vessels are less able to change shape and this makes it more difficult to keep our core body temperature happy.
What can we do about hot flashes?
A lot, so don’t worry…
Below are a few tips to get going:
Don’t exercise in the evening. This will increase your core temperature. Exercise earlier in the day.
Add in some beetroot powder. Beetroot are rich in nitrates which may help relax and dilate the blood vessels. This won’t be a good option if you are prone to kidney stones. If you are unsure, always check with your health care provider.
Dress in layers; you might need to take a layer off or change clothes altogether
Avoid or lessen the amount of alcohol, caffeine or even spicy foods you take in. These might increase the tendency for hot flashes to occur.
Try to quit smoking. Smoking will narrow your blood vessels which will make it harder to adjust to temperature changes.
Keep a good body weight. Women who are considered overweight or obese might exercise hot flashes more frequently.
Handle your stress. Stress may increase the severity of hot flashes.
Do you want even more information?
Information is power and this allows you to make better informed decisions alongside your health care providers.
There are even more tips in the freebie section on my website. Click on the link below!
Check out North American Menopause Society (NAMS)