Hot Flashes 101 ~ Hot Flashes and Menopause

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Photo credit: Gary Soup via Visual Hunt / CC BY

Hot flashes and menopause — it’s almost impossible to think of one without the other. Hot flashes are the most common symptom of perimenopausal and menopausal women; according to some studies, affecting about 85% of these women.  Most women have mild to moderate hot flashes, but about 10–15% of women experience such severe hot flashes that they seek medical attention.

When you’re having a hot flash, you may experience:

  • a feeling of pressure in your head as the hot flash begins
  • a feeling of mild to intense heat spreading through your upper body and face
  • a flushed appearance with red, blotchy skin on your face, neck, and upper chest
  • rapid heartbeat
  • perspiration, mostly on your upper body
  • a chilled feeling as the hot flash subsides

Hot flashes are mostly caused by the hormonal changes of menopause, but can also be affected by lifestyle and medications. A diminished level of estrogen has a direct effect on the hypothalamus, the part of the brain responsible for controlling your appetite, sleep cycles, sex hormones, and body temperature. Somehow (we don’t know how), the drop in estrogen confuses the hypothalamus—which is sometimes referred to as the body’s “thermostat”—and makes it read “too hot.”

There is considerable variation in time of onset, duration, frequency, and the nature of hot flashes. An episode can last a few seconds or a few minutes, occasionally even an hour, but it can take another half hour for you to feel yourself again. Research shows the most common time of onset is between six and eight in the morning and six to ten at night.
Some women keep a record of when a hot flash occurs and what they were eating or doing, or how they were feeling at of the time.  You can then try to avoid the triggers.  Some common triggers are:

  • stress
  • alcohol
  • caffeine
  • diet pills
  • spicy food
  • hot food
  • hot tubs
  • saunas
  • hot showers
  • hot beds
  • hot rooms
  • hot weather
  • smoking

Hot flash survival tips –

  • Dress in layers, so you can peel off one layer after another as you get warmer.
  • Don’t wear wool, don’t wear synthetics, and be wary of silk. That leaves cotton, linen, rayon, and more cotton.
  • Avoid turtlenecks. Stick to open-neck shirts.
  • Keep ice water at hand that you can sip to cool down.
  • Where possible, lower the thermostat or maybe it’s time for an air conditioner or a ceiling fan.
  • Wear cotton pajamas or a nightgown. If you perspire a lot at night, your nightclothes are easier to change than the sheets.
  • Use cotton sheets only, not synthetics.
  • Get a bigger bed if you and your partner are on different heat planets but you still want to stay in close orbit.
  • Take a cool shower before bed.
  • Arrive at meetings early so that you can get the coolest seat.
  • Use your freezer liberally. A number of women talked about opening the freezer at home (or in the supermarket) and sticking their head in when a hot flash hits.
  • Put a cold pack or a cold cloth on the back of your neck.

Hope this information helps; I have referenced the following links for the information contained in this post:

http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/hot-flashes/DS01143/DSECTION=symptoms

http://womenshealth.about.com/cs/menopaus1/a/menopause2.htm

http://womenshealth.about.com/cs/hotflashes/a/nomorehotflashs.htm

http://www.breastcancer.org/tips/menopausal/facing/hot_flashes.jsp

Disclaimer –The material provided on this site is designed for information and educational purposes only. The materials are not intended to be a self-diagnostic and/or self-treatment tool. I encourage you to use this information as a tool for discussing your condition with your health practitioner.

Comments

  1. Patricia says:

    I have been menopausal for many years and have only experienced "hot flashes" during the night… with only a couple of exceptions…The usual scenario is, at some point during the night, I become warm, toss off the quilts, resume sleeping, and wake up shivering. On some occasions my sweet hubby will awaken sufficiently to realize that I am sound asleep, half naked, and the room is….. cool-chilly.. and cover me again so my sleep is disturbed as little as possible. I am still taking estrogen (in minute amts.) so perhaps this is the reason it is lasting so long. What are your thoughts??

  2. Drachma Girl says:

    Is it true you gain a lot of weight during this difficult period? And what is the average age for menopause? I'm 44 and I haven't thought about menopause but I guess it's just around the corner???

  3. lighttraveler says:
  4. Thanks for joining Good Friends Just Click. I'm following you via GFC! Hope to see you next week- http://www.mamalovesherbargains.com

    my mom went thru menopause really early- like she was done at 40. i'm almost 37. i'm just waiting for it to start!

  5. Are You A Mom says:

    Hello,
    I am your newest follower. Please stop by and say hi and follow me too…:)
    Thanks,
    Maureen
    Areyouamom.com

  6. Brandy, April, and Amanda says:

    Thanks for the informative post. I hope that I am a long way from this stage but it's nice to have some facts. Thank you for the follow we have returned the favor!

    Giveaway Blogdom

  7. AmberFaith says:

    Thanks for stopping by! I'm now following you back! Have a great day! (:

    Amber
    http://beautifullybellafaith.blogspot.com

  8. The Survival Mama says:

    Not really looking forward to personal summers…but these are some great tips!!

    Finally making the rounds, thanks for swinging by my blog. Now following you back so I don't miss anything exciting!!

    The Survival Mama

  9. Hi! I'm following you back! I love the help advice for surviving hot flashes! I'm almost 32 and I swear I have hot flashes! Everyone says I'm too young though so who knows! All I know is I can get HOT really quick and when I'm hot I'm not a happy camper! lol Thanks again for sharing and for stopping by Kortney's Krazy Life! Have a great evening!

  10. GratefulTwinMom says:

    Good advice about hot flashes. I am only experiencing them every once in a while, but the survival tips will be good advice when they start arriving with a vengeance.

  11. Moms of all Trades says:

    SO not looking forward to this stage in life, Thanks for visiting my blog, returning the follow

  12. Hi Monica,
    Thanks for visiting me at Jewelry4Change. I'm glad to have found your blog. :)
    This article has soooo many great tips. I went into instant menopause in my 40's when I had to have a hysterectomy, due to cancer. I used many of the tips you've mentioned, and really disliked the flashes that woke me during the night. The good thing is, it doesn't last forever. It's been 6 years and the hot flashes are gone. Yay!

  13. Ahhhh.. perimenopause.. what a great time of life! Actually, I think hot flashes are rather funny. I just loved the day my doctor said I was on the 10 year "menopausal" plan. That was 5 years ago.

    I'm thrilled that you visited me at A Season for All Things. I, too, have trouble relating to all the "young mommies" out there. I have 4 kids (ages 27, 17, 17, and 15).

    I'm your newest follower and look forward to reading your posts. You have a great blog!

    ~ Ellen

  14. thewovenspoke says:

    Oh boy, good ol' hot flashes! Mine started in my late 30's and once in a while I still get one. Anymore I don't know if it is menoapause or my "thermostat" being messed by an indirect hit from lightning at 40.
    I am your newest follower, thanks for following me. dawn

    http://www.thewovenspoke.blogspot.com

  15. I am in my early forties, and while I hate to think about it,this is just around the corner for me, although I actually have thyroid issues and normally am the lady that is wearing a sweater when everyone else is wearing shorts. I am your newest follower and would love if you dropped by my blog at kittycrochettwo.blogspot.com. Look forward to reading more of your posts.

  16. Dressedtothe9s says:

    Boy oh boy I can relate to that. I get them any time of day. Sometimes in the night they are so bad I wake soaked and have to change my nightgown and can't get back to sleep. It hit me around 49. The weight gain isn't too bad but there is some mostly around the waist which I find hard to deal with.
    Good information here and I love your living green tips.
    I am your newest follower, stop by for a visit and follow me too!

    http://www.dressedtothe9sconnie.blogspot.com

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