Q: When I get a hot flash, I'm so hot I want to jump in the freezer. What is happening to my body? Does my blood pressure increase? Is it affecting my heart? I want to know what damage is being done!
Oz Says: Incredibly, the specific cause of hot flashes is still a mystery. We know that estrogen interacts with your brain and your central nervous system, which control your body's temperature. And we think that when hormone levels start fluctuating, as they do during menopause—or even sometimes when you're stressed or anxious—it makes your thermostat go haywire. Your brain thinks you're too hot, so it opens up blood vessels in your chest, your neck, and your face; it also cranks up your heart rate and blood pressure to get blood to the surface and cool you down. Although you're suddenly sweating like an Olympic miler, there's no evidence that hot flashes damage your health. They may not even make you very hot. Your skin temperature might increase a few degrees, but your body temperature usually doesn't change much. It could even drop slightly, since your body is in heat-shedding mode. If you want a little cooling assistance, fill a spray bottle with distilled water and a few drops of peppermint or lavender oil (both are calming scents) and use it on your skin when you feel a flash.
This story originally appeared in the March/April 2014 issue of Dr. Oz The Good Life.