As of 2015, there is still debate about the mechanism that causes hot flashes after menopause, but most experts believe it involves decreased estrogen production and its effects on the hypothalamus, notes Healthline. The hypothalamus controls body temperature, and estrogen reduction potentially causes erroneous heat detection by the brain.
In most cases, estrogen levels drop gradually during menpause. However, as estrogen decreases influence the hypothalamus, one theory is that the brain secretes hormones to bring body heat back down. This causes the heart rate of the patient to climb, and blood vessels dilate to permit greater flow of blood, letting the heat dissipate. This makes the body generate sweat and send hot flashes, reports Healthline.
Not all women suffer from hot flashes, and those who go through it report varying levels of intensity, ranging from a minor hassle to a major disruption of daily activities. A general strategy for keeping these flashes as infrequent as possible is committing to a healthy lifestyle. Sedentary lifestyles, obesity and smoking all potentially exacerbate the symptoms of hot flashes. Genetics and ethnicity are factors over which patients have no control. For example, hot flashes appear more frequent and intense in African American women than in Caucasian women, while Hispanic women have hot flashes more often but not with the same intensity, according to Healthline.