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What Triggers Your Hot Flash?

Hot flashes are the single most common symptom experienced by women going through perimenopause and menopause and for the most part, are unavoidable. Of course, this doesn't mean that there aren't ways to lessen the frequency and intensity of hot flashes. Familiarizing yourself with the causes and triggers of hot flashes is the first step in dealing with this symptom.

The Internal Thermostat
In order to function properly, your body must remain within a specific temperature range. To stay within that operating range, a built-in thermostat in your brain's hypothalamus keeps track of your body's core temperature. If you exceed that range, your body will open additional blood vessels and cause you to sweat in an attempt to release heat. Drop below that range and your body will start doing things to help generate heat, such as shivering.
HFN 004 HFTriggers 1 11383938 When a woman enters menopause, that range becomes narrower, meaning that the body is more sensitive to even slight changes in temperature. Thus, when body temperature increases, a hot flash is triggered as the body attempts to cool itself down.

If you keep the information above in mind, it will be easier to avoid certain behaviors that can trigger hot flashes. For example, refrain from eating spicy foods and drinking hot beverages. Stay out of hot tubs, don't sunbathe, and stay hydrated. When indoors, don't be afraid to run the air conditioner. A good daytime target temperature is 70 degrees and 65 degrees at night. This doesn't mean that you should avoid all physical activity. A reasonable amount of exercise during the day can help you sleep better at night, which in turn will help combat sleep deprivation, another hot flash trigger. As a matter of fact, in addition to regular exercise playing a large part in good health, it helps many women with their menopause symptoms, even hot flashes.  See HFN's section on Exercise to get started or maintain your program.

Other Triggers
Additional behaviors known to trigger hot flashes are the heavy use of alcohol and tobacco, so an effort to minimize drinking and stop smoking would be well worth it. Stress is another trigger and should be avoided. Granted, it isn't always possible to avoid stressful situations in our everyday life, but if certain people or situations cause your blood to boil, try your best to stay away from them--or give your typical response mechanism a tune up. A few slow deep breaths before reacting is a good strategy. Simply put, to the extent possible, do not enter into a situation if you know it's going to cause you stress. See
HFN's section on Stress Management for some helpful tips.

Keeping a Log
HFN 004 HFTriggers 3 35094946The next time you have a hot flash, make a mental note of what you were doing right before the flash came on. Were you consuming a specific type of food or beverage? Were you engaged in a certain activity or in the company of someone whose company you don't particularly enjoy? Whatever the case was, remember it and write it down in a log as soon as possible. You can use this information in the future to identify and avoid behaviors that trigger hot flashes. You can try to do this mentally, but recording it on paper or your favorite electronic buddy is a more complete and thorough method of keeping track of potential triggers. Keeping a written log also proves useful if you ever need to provide specific and accurate information to your doctor. ♀

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