The Anatomy of a Hot Flash

HotFlashes_webIt is estimated that two-thirds to three-quarters of all American women in mid-life experience hot flashes.  They can last anywhere from six months to five years and can significantly affect a woman’s quality of life. What is behind these flashes?  Let’s have a look at the series of events that cause a hot flash.

  1. Your brain thinks that your body is too hot, even if you are not. The process by which your body cools itself (sweating) is initiated.
  2. Blood vessels dilate to allow your blood to reach the surface of your skin. Your skin temperature rises and you feel hot.
  3. Your heart pumps blood faster, in order to get the blood to your skin where it can cool off. As this happens, many women feel dizzy, anxious, and hot.
  4. As the blood rushes to the surface of your skin, your face, chest and neck “flush.”
  5. You begin to sweat in order to get rid of the excess heat.
  6. After about five minutes, your body is sweaty and damp, you have cooled off, and your brain believes your temperature has regulated. The hot flash is over.

For tips and solutions to reduce hot flashes, check out the hotflashes and night sweats page on the WIBI website.