For many women, hot flashes after menopause are a significant problem. Sometimes, these hot flashes remain, even after the menopausal transition has passed. Although hormone levels usually balance out after menopause, estrogen levels are still low, which means hot flashes can last well into the postmenopause years.
What Are Hot Flashes After Menopause?
Hot flashes start as feelings of intense heat in the upper body and can be accompanied by increased heart rate, and sometimes profuse sweating and chills. Hot flashes typically last between 30 seconds and five minutes. The intensity and frequency of hot flashes after menopause varies for every woman, but the symptoms usually lessen as a woman ages. Hot flashes can also happen at night. These are called night sweats and often disrupt a woman's sleep, causing her to feel tired, irritable, and unable to function throughout the day.
Some women can have hot flashes after menopause has passed, in their 60s and even into their 70s. Hot flashes can become a real burden if they're not managed correctly.
What Causes Hot Flashes After Menopause?
The exact cause of hot flashes after menopause is uncertain, but it's widely accepted that the fluctuating levels of hormones interfere with the function of the hypothalamus, the area of the brain that regulates body temperature. A hot flash occurs when the hypothalamus falsely detects an increase in body temperature. To help cool the body down, compounds are released to increase the heart rate and dilate the blood vessels near the skin.
Stress is another common trigger of hot flashes after menopause. Minimizing stress levels can greatly reduce the severity of your hot flashes.
Common Triggers of Hot Flashes After Menopause
Avoiding triggers will enable you to effectively manage your hot flashes. Keep notes on what you did, ate, or drank just prior to a hot flash and see if you have your own personal triggers. Here is a list of some of the most common triggers:
- Spicy food
- Pent up anger or stress
- Hot drinks
- Warm environments
- Diet pills
Managing Hot Flashes After Menopause
There are a number of steps that you can follow to help treat hot flashes after menopause effectively. Many of these are similar to the recommendations for dealing with menopausal hot flashes. Try things such as:
Eating healthy. Eat regularly, in good sized portions, with a lot of vegetables. Don't completely avoid oils or fats, as some of these can be healthy - particularly unsaturated fats. This is about making sure you have a balanced diet with all the nutrients you need to keep your body and hormone levels stable.
- Wearing natural fibers, cotton pajamas, rather than those made of synthetic materials, can help prevent night sweats.
Exercising regularly. This also helps your body maintain its equilibrium.
Keeping your bedroom cool. Put a fan on to aid air circulation at night.
Using alternative medicines. Herbal supplements or vitamin pills can help keep hot flashes away.
Read further for a list of treatments for hot flashes.
- Sikon, Andrea and Holly Thacker M.D. "Treatment for Menopausal Hot Flashes". Cleveland Clinic Journal of Medicine. July 2004: 71 (7).
- "Hot flashes ... in January". Canadian Medical Association Journal. 2004: 170 (1).
- 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.