Hot flashes are no fun. Whether debilitating, embarrassing or merely annoying, they come out of the blue, in the middle of work or at dinner. There's no warning light to signal the heat, sweat and sometimes rapid heartbeats. All you can do is tear you clothes off and find the nearest cold breeze. It is clearly the most disruptive symptom of menopause.
Changing hormone levels throw off the part of the brain that controls body temperature. The brain’s natural production of gamma-Aminobutyric acid (GABA) decreases. Increased GABA helps to regulate the amounts of certain brain chemicals—serotonin and norepinephrine—that are involved in temperature regulation.
Hot flashes are thought to be the result of changes in the hypothalamus, the part of the brain that regulates the body’s temperature. If the hypothalamus mistakenly senses that a woman is too warm, it starts a chain of events to cool her down. Blood vessels near the surface of the skin begin to dilate (enlarge), increasing blood flow to the surface in an attempt to dissipate body heat. This produces a red, flushed look to the face and neck. It may also make a woman perspire to cool the body down. The heart may beat faster and a cold chill often follows a hot flash (a few women experience only the chill) hot flashes typically stop during postmenopause.
You are not alone. Symptoms of perimenopause can torment you for the next 10 years!