When it comes to hot flashes, there is a ton of information out there, so it can be difficult to parse out what’s most relevant to you and your experience or the experiences of someone you know. To figure out what are the possible causes of a hot flash, let’s break down what a hot flash actually is.
What Is A Hot Flash?
A hot flash usually consists of a wave of heat, discomfort, sweating, and flushing of the face and skin unrelated to the actual temperature around them. What is not typically known is that hot flashes can focus on different parts of the body—hands, chest, legs, face—or they can affect the whole body if they are quite severe. There are also varying degrees of hot flashes.
You may experience something as minor as a vague tingling and warming of your hands, or as intense as feeling like you’re in a pot of boiling water.
When Do They Start?
Though normally thought of as a menopausal issue, these can occur years before and after menopause occurs. The several years before menopause is called perimenopause. It is during this time the body is beginning to deal with various changes in hormone balance and blood flow among other things.
Once these flashes start, they usually continue through menopause and for some time afterwards. Most people who experience these notice a gradual reduction in severity and frequency over time.
What Causes Hot Flashes?
Over the years, research has indicated that decreased estrogen levels or other hormonal imbalances characteristic of menopause are to blame for these unpleasant waves of heat.
There are also other theories that it may also be caused by changes in circulation in the brain. As bodies age, and hormones that regulate heart rate and blood flow change in balance, this can cause bodily reactions, like hot flashes, to happen.
What Are Likely Triggers?
Though it is difficult to completely prevent hot flashes once they begin, identifying what triggers them can be helpful. Here are some of the most common causes:
Alcohol dilates blood vessels and can already cause a feeling of warmth to spread across the body. It makes sense that this would increase the chances of a hot flash.
Increased heart rate can affect your ability to regulate your body temperature normally, and raising the likelihood of a flash.
Smoking lowers estrogen, and so can increase the frequency of hot flashes.
Decreasing Severity and Occurrences
In addition to avoiding these triggers that can cause more frequent and intense hot flashes, there are some steps you can take to improve your body’s ability to handle these experiences:
Having more water in your system is always a great idea for overall health, but especially when dealing with hot flashes. Being more hydrated improves blood flow which is important for temperature regulation.
Hot flashes can be caused by stress, but they can also cause stress. It’s a vicious cycle! Using calming techniques to slow your breathing and recognizing that the waves of heat will pass can help calm your mind and body and allow your body to return to its natural balance quicker.
Hormone Replacement Therapy
For many people experiencing hot flashes, carefully directed hormone therapy is a fantastic solution. Through the use of similar or biologically identical hormones, the symptoms and severity of hot flashes can be greatly reduced, as well as the other associated effects of perimenopause and menopause.
Though a serious issue that many women face, it is not insurmountable, nor does it need to be a lonely experience. Seek the advice of your doctor or a hormone specialist if you are experiencing hot flashes.