What is a hot flash?

A hot flash is the body’s way of activating cooling mechanisms.  During a hot flash, the body releases heat through the skin, produces sweating, and promotes behavior that cools the core body temperature. We call these episodes hot flashes during the day and night sweats when they occur at night.  Night sweats can be particularly bothersome because they interfere with restorative sleep - causing women to awaken and sometimes require them to change clothes because of the amount of perspiration. Women describe hot flashes as a feeling of intense heat that generally starts in the upper chest and then spreads throughout the body.  Researchers studying hot flashes have documented a measurable increase in skin temperature and heart rate. Hot flashes tend to peek in about three minutes and normalize in approximately 30 minutes. In career and social situations, hot flashes can become distressing and distracting.

 

Researchers are now finding links between hot flashes and cardiovascular disease. Please see my blog post regarding this for more information.  Things you can do to manage symptoms of hot flashes and night sweats include any sort of relaxation technique, regular exercise, dressing in layers, maintaining a healthy body weight, avoiding smoking, doing breathing exercises, and avoiding triggers. Common triggers are a warm environment, hot drinks, and exercise.

 

While supplements and these cooling measures can be helpful, the single best treatment for hot flashes is estrogen hormone therapy. 

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