Just as I find myself preparing to explain to my youngest child how babies are made, it seems I may also have to explain to him what hot flashes are, and why mommy is having them right now.
When I was raising my first three children, I was the “young mom”. Now that I am raising my eight-year-old baby, I am now the “old mom”.
That being said, I do not feel like an “old mom”. But, admittedly, there are a few of Max’s friends’ moms that are the same ages as my first three children, and some have little ones that are my granddaughters’ ages or younger.
I find comfort in knowing that I am not the sole “old mom”. There are many moms out there my age with young children. Some are even just like me, with grown children, grandchildren and a new batch of young children.
At Max’s sporting and school events, it is not unusual to find myself sitting between moms that are pregnant and fellow hot-flashers.
I feel young, and whatever biology my body is supposed go through, it’s going through it. In some ways going through it with an eight-year-old son at home, makes it somehow more humorous to deal with.
After the lights go out, Michael and I’s bed now has two distinct sides. We’ve always slept on our individual sides, but now Michael’s side is under full cover all night, and mine, well, it has multiple personalities throughout the night. Ever changing from full cover, to just the sheet, to no cover.
Michael sweetly refers to me as his “Little Ember”. Such a great little nickname for me as I go through this hot flash time of my life.
Hot flashes are mostly caused by the hormonal changes of menopause. When a diminished level of estrogen directly affects the hypothalamus, the part of the brain responsible for controlling our appetite, sleep cycles, sex hormones, and body temperature.
Somehow (they really don’t know how), the drop in estrogen confuses the hypothalamus, often referred to as the body’s “thermostat” and makes it read “too hot”.
The brain responds to our thermostat read by alerting our heart, blood vessels, and nervous system to “Cool me down!” The message is delivered instantly, and your heart pumps faster, the blood vessels in your skin dilate to circulate more blood to radiate off the heat, and your sweat glands release sweat to cool you off.
This is the same heat-releasing mechanism that keeps you from overheating in hot weather, or when exercising.
But when a drop in estrogen triggers this process instead, your brain’s confused response can get uncomfortable. Like having a hot flash in the middle of a conversation in an air-conditioned room, or in the middle of a sound sleep.
Eighty-five percent of the women in the United States experience hot flashes of some kind as they approach menopause. The good news is, as time goes on, the intensity of our hot flashes decreases.
Here are some hot flash survival tips:
- Sip on ice water
- Sleep on cotton sheets
- Dress in layers of cotton clothing
- Take a cool shower or bath before bed
- When a hot flash hits stick your head and/or hands in a freezer
- Lower the thermostat, stay near a fan, or personally fan yourself
Exercise can help hot flashes. Increasing your level of physical activity can reduce hot flashes and have a positive impact on just about every other symptom attributed to menopause including:
- Mood swings
- Loss of libido
- Eroded self-image
- Elevated cholesterol levels
- Heart, bone, and muscle health
You may wish to avoid these known hot flash triggers:
- Diet pills
- Hot tubs
- Hot showers
- Hot weather
- Spicy foods
- Hot foods
Trying the following techniques may lessen stress, one of the factors that contribute to hot flashes:
- Listening to soft music
- Relaxation exercises
- Breathing exercises
Several hot flashes flushed through my body as I wrote this blog. As I feel the heat, I find myself thinking this cool thought on hot flashes…
Having the knowledge that hot flashes are yet another passing phase in our ever-changing bodies, and that the experience of them is a reminder of the amazing life we get to live as women, makes the heat just a little cooler.