Why You Get Dizzy During a Hot Flash
Of the many menopausal symptoms women will experience during their lifetimes, hot flashes can often be the most disorienting. These sudden rushes of heat can last anywhere from 30 seconds to 10 minutes and can happen up to 20 times a day or more. Women experience hot flashes at different frequencies and intensities, but that doesn’t make them any less uncomfortable. And some women, experience more than just the sudden rush of heat. Some women have reported feeling light-headed, short of breath, and even dizzy during a hot flash.
How can a hot flash make you feel dizzy? Well, it’s best to start off by understanding how a hot flash occurs.
How a Hot Flash Happens
Your body temperature is controlled by an area of the brain called the hypothalamus. As women enter menopause, the depletion of the sex hormones, primarily estrogen, impacts how the hypothalamus regulates body temperature. Estrogen targets a variety of cellular groups in the hypothalamus that help it register and maintain body temperature. When estrogen can no longer target those cellular groups, the hypothalamus becomes extremely sensitive to even the slightest changes in temperature.
When the hypothalamus senses the body is becoming too warm, it will increase heart rate and blood pressure, both of which raise the body temperature even more. These increases in heart rate, blood pressure, and body temperature cause the hypothalamus to send signals to the sweat glands in the skin. These glands then start to produce sweat in order to cool the surface of the skin and bring the body temperature back down.
Why Some Women Experience Dizziness
We know that when the hypothalamus registers the body as being too warm, it increases heart rate and blood pressure. This explains, not only the rise in body temperature and the signals sent to the sweat glands, but it also explains why some women may feel dizzy or short of breath during a hot flash.
When you experience high blood pressure and an increased heart rate, your body transitions from a state of relaxation into a state of stress. As a result, your body’s natural stress response starts to kick in and increases the production of stress hormones like cortisol, adrenaline, and norepinephrine. When these hormone levels are high, your blood vessels start to constrict to divert more oxygen to your muscles and which can lower the amount of oxygen flowing to your brain. This is what causes you to feel short of breath or even dizzy.
Not all women may experience dizziness or shortness of breath during a hot flash, as everyone’s stress response differs. Women with certain mental health conditions like anxiety or depression may experience shortness of breath or dizziness during hot flashes more often than women who don’t, but that doesn’t mean that women who have not been diagnosed with those conditions are exempt from experiencing those same sensations during a hot flash.
What Should You Do if You Feel Dizzy?
If you do experience shortness of breath or dizziness during a hot flash, there are things you can do to help ease these symptoms.
One of the best things you can do for your body is to drink plenty of water. If you find yourself feeling dizzy, drink a glass of water. Many of us don’t drink enough water in a day and are often dehydrated as a result. Dehydration can add to feelings of dizziness during a hot flash. When the body doesn’t have enough fluids, mainly water, the volume of blood in your body decreases and can keep oxygen from getting to your brain as effectively. By drinking water, you’re helping boost your blood’s ability to get enough oxygen to your brain.
Sit Back or Lay Down
If you’re experiencing dizziness and shortness of breath, you should steady yourself immediately by sitting back in a chair or laying down. Standing up when you feel dizzy or light-headed can increase your chance of falling over. The body can’t balance when the brain isn’t receiving enough oxygen. Sitting or laying down can prevent you from falling over and lower your risk of fainting. Make sure to stay sitting or laying down until your hot flash is over and you stop feeling dizzy or short of breath.
Don’t Panic if You Feel Dizzy
If you experience dizziness, light-headedness, or shortness of breath during a hot flash, the important thing to remember is don’t panic! It’s important to try to keep calm otherwise you risk increasing your stress hormones and compounding the problem. Drink water, lay down, and wait things out no matter how long it takes. Remember, your health and safety always come first!