Two thirds of perimenopausal American women, and almost all those who experience induced menopause, will encounter hot flashes. The flushed face and sweating sensation that often accompanies hot flashes can be uncomfortable and inconvenient, often leaving women embarrassed if they experience an episode in public. Furthermore, the rapid heart rate that can sometimes be felt is often alarming for menopausal women with additional health concerns.
Who Suffers from Hot Flashes?
In addition to menopausal women, people in other life stages can suffer from hot flashes.
During pregnancy many women report experiencing hot flashes. This is because, as in menopause, a pregnant woman's hormone levels change and unbalance, thus triggering the same consequence. Hot flashes during pregnancy however, are often very uncomfortable due to the extra weight women have to carry. Many women have also reported that their hot flashes persist even after they have given birth. However, hot flashes usually stop in their own time once hormone levels have become balanced once again. Relief can be found by layering clothes.
Teenagers often suffer from hot flashes due to the changing hormone levels experienced during puberty, (especially when these are combined with stress, anxiety, insecurity, embarrassment, and anger). Usually most teenagers grow out of hot flashes quickly and do not need treatment.
Although other people can experience hot flashes, menopausal women are commonly the most likely victims. The experience is often triggered by fluctuating hormone levels, which leave a woman's body unable to accurately measure external temperatures. Although hot flashes are very uncomfortable, they are both natural and common. Additionally, there is no need to simply suffer in silence, a number of treatments are available that help women to battle hot flashes.
What Are the Exact Causes of Hot Flashes in Women?
The exact cause of hot flashes has yet to be determined. However, doctors believe that decreased estrogen levels affect the hypothalamus- (the part of the brain that regulates temperature). Irregular hormone levels can make the hypothalamus incorrectly perceive that the body is overheating, and cause blood vessels to dilate and trigger a hot flash.
Other triggers for hot flashes include spicy food and too much alcohol. Additionally, women who are overweight and do not exercise enough are more likely to experience hot flashes.
Treatments for Hot Flashes
Treatments for hot flashes include natural supplements, lifestyle changes and prescribed medications. However, women should discuss their experiences with a doctor before choosing a treatment method.
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- Miller, Heather and Rose Maria Li, M.D. "Measuring Hot Flashes: Summary of a National Institutes of Health Workshop". Conference report. Mayo Clinic. June 2004: 79.
- Sikon, Andrea and Holly Thacker M.D. "Treatment for Menopausal Hot Flashes". Cleveland Clinic Journal of Medicine. July 2004: 71 (7).