Explained | Are you experiencing hot flashes? Causes, symptoms, solutions

By Dr. Loveleena Nadir

Menopause is the term which is widely used for the period when a woman loses the ability to bear children. It can come with a wide range of symptoms, and experiencing hot flashes during the same is very common.

A hot flash is the sudden feeling of intense warmth over the face, neck & chest. Blood vessels in the skin dilate to circulate more blood to radiate off the heat, and sweat glands release sweat to cool off even more.

Hot flashes are generally caused

due to changing hormonal levels during the climatric from perimenopause to menopause Decline in Estrogen levels makes the hypothalamus (the body’s thermostat) more sensitive to changes in body temperature. If a body feels warm hypothalamus starts a chain of events leading to a hot flash to cool down the body.

Estrogen helps to protect the health of our heart, blood vessels, brain, bones, vagina & skin. Estrogen protects the arteries by reducing the build-up of fatty plaque. Low estrogen levels after menopause can increase cholesterol levels.

A fair amount of research has connected menopause and cardiovascular disease, including risk factors such as increased LDL & decreased HDL.

Hot flashes during menopause may be associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, but the reason is unclear. However, it is unclear whether one causes the other or is caused by shared factors.

Although studies have shown a link between hot flashes and an increased risk of heart disease, other factors such as obesity, increased blood pressure, and diabetes raises a person’s risk.

If one is experiencing hot flashes,

It should motivate them to make necessary lifestyle changes to improve overall health & lower the risk of heart and brain disease.

Estrogen has neuroprotective properties influencing brain blood flow & cerebral microvascular tone. The decline in estrogen levels resulting in hot flashes presented a physiological challenge to brain blood flow.

Scientific research found that 60 % of hot flashes were accompanied by a clear reduction in brain blood flow, perfusion & reduction in blood pressure, causing that feeling of faintness.

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In addition, one or other major modulators of blood flow, like cardiac output and brain metabolism, may influence blood flow reduction in the brain. More research is required to know how hot flashes affect the brain & heart health.

Dr Loveleena Nadir, MBBS, MD(Obgyn) is an Obstetritian and Gynaecologist at Rosewalk Healthcare in New Delhi.

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