The most common symptom of menopause is the occurrence of hot flashes, sometimes called hot flushes or night sweats. Night sweats are hot flashes that occur at night. It is believed that that they are partially caused by a drop in estrogen in the body combined with other factors, such as stress levels and lifestyle. Recent reports indicate that women who lead stressful life styles can suffer up to five times as many hot flashes as a relaxed woman. Not every woman going through menopause will suffer from hot flashes, and they can start several years before menopause begins. Combined with irregular periods, hot flashes are the prime indicator of the onset of menopause.
The severity of the hot flashes varies from person to person. Some women may have quite mild symptoms and will feel gentle warmth spreading over the upper body, neck and face. Others will feel intense heat and heart palpitations. Hot flashes may last anywhere from a few minutes up to half an hour. While some women will have a few hot flashes a week, others may have several every day. Night sweats, as the name suggests, occur at nighttime and result in heavy perspiration. The sufferer may find it hard to get back to sleep and in extreme cases they may result in insomnia.
The first step in dealing with hot flashes is to try to isolate what triggers them. The best way to do this is to keep a diary and note down what you were doing and where you were before the hot flash started. Environmental factors such as hot offices or rooms along with stressful situations may help trigger the hot flash. Also note down what you have eaten as it is suspected that diet helps to trigger hot flashes. Caffeine and alcohol are believed to play a part in triggering hot flashes, so monitor your intake. Once you have isolated what triggers your flashes you can then start to take steps to minimize them. On a physical level it is know that lower levels of estrogen fool the hypothalamus into thinking that the body is overheating. It then responds by opening blood vessels and directing blood to the surface of the skin to be cooled. This results in the manifestation of the physical symptoms.
By making a few simple changes to your lifestyle you may be able to reduce the intensity and number of your hot flashes. Try to exercise more often as this will also help with other symptoms of menopause. Keep rooms a few degrees cooler than normal and turn the air conditioning up. Plan your wardrobe accordingly, wear plenty of cotton and linen and avoid wool as much as possible. Wear several light layers of clothing so that you can remove layers if you start to get warm. With planning and a few simple changes you can start to control your hot flashes.