Hot flashes don't care where you are, what you're doing or what you're wearing. They can happen anytime, turning your complexion crimson, covering you with sweat and leaving you longing for a shower and change of clothes.
If you're a woman about to or going through the change of menopause, you know hot flashes come with the territory, but do you really know what they are? More importantly, did you know you can take certain steps to prevent them?
What Is a Hot Flash?
Women typically experience hot flashes during perimenopause and menopause and some will have them after as well. A hot flash is characterized by a flushed face and/or neck, sweating and possibly a rapid heart rate or a bout of the chills. The exact reason women have hot flashes isn't clear, but it's the dilation of the blood vessels just beneath the skin's surface that causes the redness and a sudden feeling of heat. Sweating is the body's way of cooling itself to lower temperature, which explains the sudden onset of sweating.
When a hot flash occurs at night, that's considered a night sweat and can awaken you from a sound sleep or make falling asleep difficult in the first place. It's important to speak with a doctor if you're having trouble getting the sleep you need, which can lead to increased stress and poor memory, among other problems. The number and duration of hot flashes a woman experiences is unique to her, but they generally do lessen as time goes on.
Why Hot Flashes Happen
While the exact cause of hot flashes isn't known. Some possible causes are changes in circulation or decreased function of the hypothalamus, which controls body temperature. The function of this gland is impacted by the decline of the hormone estrogen after a woman's menstrual cycles stop. However, there are some triggers it's recommended you avoid in order to reduce your hot flashes:
Pay attention to the frequency, intensity and duration of your hot flashes and discuss any patterns with your doctor. You can then determine what your triggers are and how best to modify your habits or behaviors to prevent hot flashes from occurring.
Can Hot Flashes Be Prevented?
As previously started, triggers for hot flashes have been identified, but the exact cause is unknown. There are a variety of natural supplements that support the body and therefore may be beneficial in preventing hot flashes. Some to consider include black cohosh root, soy lecithin, evening primrose oil and dong quai. These various supplements act as phytoestrogens within the body, helping mimic the effects of the estrogen lost with menopause. You and your doctor can determine the appropriate dose and the duration for use.
There are also some additional steps you can take to keep yourself comfortable. First of all, you can wear clothing made from light fabric, like cotton, to keep you cool. Wearing layers will help you get comfortable more quickly. When it comes to your home, buy sheets of a lower threadcount, which allow more air to pass through. Lastly, make sure to get regular exercise, which supports healthy bones and joints and will also help you keep your weight in check.
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