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Hot Flashes. Why So?


Why Am I So Hot?

There’s a reason why menopause comes to mind when you hear the words "hot flash." Over 75% of menopausal women do feel the heat. But that’s not the only reason you could lose your cool. It could be a reaction to spicy food or signs of an illness. And you don’t have to be female to have one. Men get them, too.

What Is a Hot Flash?

The technical term is vasomotor symptom. It comes along with a drop in your body’s level of the hormone estrogen. Another name you might hear is night sweats. They are hot flashes that wake you up after you’ve gone to bed.

For most people, a hot flash isn’t just a rise in body temperature, it’s a mix of things:

  • A sudden warmth that’s most intense across your head and chest

  • Reddened skin

  • Sweating, either light or heavy

  • Rapid heartbeat

  • Anxiety

A Sign of “The Change”

Flashes aren’t just a menopause thing, but that is when you’re most likely to have them. They differ from woman to woman, but they start before or during menopause. There are no rules for how often they hit or how long they last. You might have several a day or none. They can last anywhere from 30 seconds to 10 minutes. They can happen once an hour or once a day.

There’s no rule for how long you’ll have them, either. For years, the answer was 6 months to 2 years. But a new study of women nationwide says it may be more like 7 to 11 years. Plus, the earlier into menopause you start to have them, the longer they’re likely to continue.

You might also have them longer if you smoke, are overweight, stressed, depressed, or anxious. Your heritage can also play a role. African-American women have them for about 11 years. But for Asian women, it’s about half that time.

Things that can set off a menopausal hot flash include:

  • A workout in hot weather

  • Spicy food

  • Alcohol