It’s that dreaded moment when heat takes over, which up to 80 per cent of women experience during menopause. If you’re one of them, you may not be able to beat ’em, but knowing what’s going on can at least help.
A sudden drop in oestrogen confuses the hypothalamus in your brain, which produces hormones that control hunger, mood and body temperature.
Some women feel tension or dread before a hot flush; others experience an aura – visual symptoms such as seeing dark spots or flashing lights, caused by changes in the cortex area of your brain. Forewarned is forearmed.
Temperatures can rise by up to two degrees during a hot flush, which can feel like an extreme change. Luckily, your core body temperature will not rise above the normal 36-37°C.
Your ovaries churn out two essential hormones: oestrogen and progesterone. When you enter perimenopause your ovary function begins to decline, and the amount of these two hormones declines along with it.
With excess heat, an alarm is triggered in your brain, sending hormones such as adrenalin and prostaglandins (which respond to inflammation)through your system, turning on cooling mechanisms in the skin, heart and sweat glands.
“As oestrogen levels fall, certain triggers can provoke increased body heat,” explains Dr Elizabeth Farrell, gynaecologist and medical director at Jean Hailes for Women’s Health. “To reduce these common triggers, cut back on caffeine, alcohol and spicy foods and try to reduce your stress levels.”
During a hot flush your heart rate increases. “When anxious or stressed, menopausal women also release slightly higher amounts of the stress hormone noradrenalin, which also increases body temperature,” says Farrell. The good news? Women who suffer from hot flushes and night sweats may be at lower risk of heart disease and stroke, research shows.
To cool down, sweat glands release perspiration that evaporates, lowering your temperature and ultimately, cooling you off. To help speed this process, imagine a snowscape – research shows that visualising cool places can help some women reduce hot flushes by 68 per cent.
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