Hot Flashes Explained


You are talking to an important client, all of a sudden, a hot flash hits you. Or you think a hot flash hit you. Red, sweating, flooding, shakin'? A hot flashed defined medically is a set of 'vasomotor symptoms' triggered by 'thermoregulatory dysfunction.', don't even try to say "thermoregulatory" fast  Medically speaking this is a set of electrical signals that we regulate this through a circuit of information: the core of our body sending temperature signals to the various centers that contribute to temperature regulation in the brain, the brain it self and the peripheral vascular system (your blood arteries and veins) which the brain signals to make the blood vessels dilate, i.e. release heat, and release it rapidly, or contract: conserve it, save it, store it, which as you know, goes more slowly.

The core temperature is a powerful influence on how we feel and how we sweat. Our core temp has an upper threshold, called a set point, beyond which we sweat, and a lower one, below which we stand the hairs up on our body, shake and quake, the shiver. Mostly we live in a pretty much neutral zone, we’re doing neither. With a woman who is hot flashing, something brain biochemical is off: there are changes in the blood vessel reactivity, but there are neuro-chemical imbalances or at least shifts in the neuro-chemicals of the brain, and the threshold shifts. Core temp is no longer the same core temp. Meaning: temperatures that we used to feel just fine at may no longer be the most comfortable, and the trigger temperature increases as well. And it all comes back to those waning and changing estrogen affecting the chemical pathways, that happen to be serotonergic and noradrenergic pathways and their functions.

Back to the physiology of the flash: When you have a hot flash your core temperature rises 0.5-2.0°F preceding the hot flash and then drops 0.1-0.9°c minutes after the start. You may perspire in your palm, and the documented finger skin temperature rises rapidly by 1-7°c and slowly decreases after the flash ends. There is blood flowing to the skin and this produces the scarlet flushing. And the heart’s response is to race, by as many as 35 extra beats per minute. A woman with a resting pulse of 80 may now have a pulse of 115 just from flashing, which is dramatic considering most menopausal women on treadmills will only be at, oh lets say, 120. Some will pant just in response to this some won't. Deep sleepers don't think they awake, but most get dramatic changes in the sleep including a decrease in REM sleep, sweating, shivering, throwing off the blankets, kicking your partner, noticing partner's snoring, all of which can leave a woman feeling less restored with hot flashes at night, which are typically the first ones a woman has. Some women will just sweat like crazy, even awaking with a wet neck, or dripping hair.

The natural age of menopause being 40 something, well average 51, anything after 40 and by 55 normal, all these symptoms before that age are probably PMS, anxiety over that perfect purse you want, or plain too fat. But If you are missing your periods and under age 30 and flashing you may also need a chromosome test. You might have found the missing Y in your family tree. Premature menopause has a lot of consequences, that is something to gab to your gyno about!

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