Navigation Links
What Causes Hot Flashes, Anyway?
Date:4/12/2012

By Jenifer Goodwin
HealthDay Reporter

THURSDAY, April 12 (HealthDay News) -- Millions of middle-aged women experience it: that sudden onset of intense heat, sweating and flushing known as a hot flash.

Though it's long been believed that the drop in hormone levels that accompanies menopause contributes to hot flashes, experts say relatively little is known about what actually causes them, or what's occurring when women have one.

"About 70 percent of women experience hot flashes, but their underlying physiology isn't well understood," said Rebecca Thurston, an assistant professor of psychiatry, psychology and epidemiology at University of Pittsburgh.

A new study by Thurston and her colleagues attempts to get at the underlying physiology. Researchers had 21 perimenopausal and postmenopausal women aged 40 to 60 who reported having daily hot flashes wear a heart monitor over a 24-hour period. Perimenopause is the time leading up to menopause when the ovaries produce less estrogen but a woman still gets her period.

The heart monitor showed that during a hot flash, heart-rate variability -- a measure of beat-to-beat changes in heart rate -- decreased significantly, a sign that the parasympathetic nervous system isn't working as well as it normally does.

The parasympathetic nervous system is one aspect of the autonomic nervous system, which regulates unconscious bodily functions such as heart and respiration rates. While the sympathetic nervous system governs the fight-or-flight response, the parasympathetic nervous system is involved with "rest and restore," or regulating the body at rest, Thurston explained.

Other research has found an association between cardiovascular disease and decreased parasympathetic nervous system control of the heart. While researchers say it's too soon to conclude that hot flashes have a connection to heart disease, it's worth continuing to study them, Thurston said.

"There were transient decreases during the hot flash, but the good news is it does come back up," Thurston said.

The research is in the April issue of Menopause.

For something that's so common, experts say it's surprising how little is understood about hot flashes. What's known is that they can vary in severity, frequency and duration. Some women may get just a few hot flashes; others suffer from multiple hot flashes a day for years.

Hot flashes are also one of the most common complaints sending women to see their doctors, experts said. Hot flashes can impair quality of life, sleep and lead to feelings of depression, according to background information in the study. Still other studies have hinted that hot flashes are associated with ill health effects, including low bone density and heart disease.

Specifically, studies have found that women who experience hot flashes are more likely to have signs of early atherosclerosis (sometimes called hardening of the arteries), such as calcified plaques in the aorta of the heart, Thurston said.

But women don't have to simply suffer with them, said Dr. Margery Gass, executive director of the North American Menopause Society.

The most effective treatment for hot flashes is hormone therapy, typically estrogen and progestin, Gass said. However, because hormone therapy carries some risks -- including boosting the risk of certain cancers, including endometrial cancer -- women should only turn to hormones if they're really bothered by hot flashes, and then they should stay on hormones only as long as they need to, Gass said.

Another treatment option: selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, or SSRIs -- a class of drugs commonly used to treat depression or anxiety. But the medications don't work as well as the hormones for most women, Thurston said.

Lifestyle changes can also help, Gass said. As people age, their "thermoneutral zone" -- the temperature at which they feel not too hot and not too cold -- shrinks.

A very minor increase in core body temperature can trigger hot flashes in some women. So, avoid becoming overheated, Gass said. Bring a fan to work and switch it on if you feel you're getting warm. Wear layered clothing so that you can peel off layers as needed. At night, sleep with a loosely woven blanket and sleep with one leg uncovered, and avoid down comforters.

Over time, hot flashes diminish, and usually totally disappear, Gass said.

"The natural course of hot flashes is they get milder and less frequent over time, and for the majority of women, they disappear altogether," Gass said. "A few women may have occasional ones forever, but usually they're manageable."

More information

WomensHealth.gov has more on menopause.

SOURCES: Rebecca Thurston, Ph.D., assistant professor, psychiatry, psychology and epidemiology, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, Penn.; Margery Gass, M.D., executive director, North American Menopause Society; April 2012 Menopause


'/>"/>
Copyright©2010 ScoutNews,LLC.
All rights reserved  

Related medicine news :

1. Popular nanoparticle causes toxicity in fish, study shows
2. EPA's New Lead-Based Paint (LBP) Renovation, Repair and Painting Rule (RRP) Causes Headaches for Contractors and Property Owners Alike
3. Play Putty Blooms New Fundraising Opportunities for Schools and Causes in Need
4. What Causes A Person To Be Mentally Ill? Author Who Has Spent Decades Researching Topic Says He Has the Answer
5. Diffuse idiopathic skeletal hyperostosis causes dysphagia in older patients
6. Gulf War Syndrome Is Real, But Causes Unclear: Report
7. DNA Test Misses Virus That Causes Hearing Loss
8. Understanding causes of cancer and chronic disease: The Canadian Partnership for Tomorrow Project
9. Children's Rights Group Agrees with New Study: Infant Circumcision Causes 100 Deaths Each Year in US
10. Causes of death in AIDS patients
11. Scientists Discover Substance That Causes Pain
Post Your Comments:
*Name:
*Comment:
*Email:
Related Image:
 What Causes Hot Flashes, Anyway?
(Date:1/10/2020)... ... January 10, 2020 , ... NW Women’s Fitness ... non-intimidating environment for all women. In search for a valuable nutrition solution, NW ... members. , For nearly 30 years, Balanced Habits, headquartered in Southern California, ...
(Date:1/8/2020)... ... January 08, 2020 , ... Mirror ... Magazine’s 2019 Best of Memorial Readers’ Choice Awards. Located adjacent to ... named Best MedSpa in Memorial reflects Mirror Mirror Beauty Boutique’s commitment to the ...
(Date:1/7/2020)... ... 07, 2020 , ... G-CON Manufacturing, the leader in prefabricated, ... sq. ft. manufacturing site in College Station, TX. The new facility, opening January ... mechanical, electrical and automation fit out. , “This facility allows us to grow ...
(Date:1/7/2020)... ... 2020 , ... CBD For The People was created with the ... the individual customer service experience. Transparency and integrity are the core of this company. ... taking care of the people first, they know that satisfied customers will bring back ...
(Date:1/7/2020)... Fla. (PRWEB) , ... January 06, 2020 , ... ... older adults living with memory impairment, has announced the Best Memory Care Facilities ... access to experts, facility features and amenities. , According to the ...
Breaking Medicine News(10 mins):
(Date:1/12/2020)... KILLINGTON, Vt. (PRWEB) , ... January 11, 2020 , ... ... more beneficial than a regular vacation and information on how to book an affordable ... opportunity to get away from the frenetic pace of everyday life, sight see and ...
(Date:1/10/2020)... ... January 10, 2020 , ... ... for radiology and the healthcare industry — today announced the appointment of Connie ... of industry experience, working with health systems in sales and marketing leadership roles. ...
(Date:1/10/2020)... ... January 10, 2020 , ... Allegheny Health Network (AHN) and ... GCMC into the family of hospitals affiliated with and operated by the Pittsburgh-based ... patients with a vital new access point for high-quality acute care services between ...
Breaking Medicine Technology: