Monday, August 11, 2008

Don't mind your hot flashes...

...they may be good for your mind. A new theory suggests that these pesky little episodes may protect your brain through a phase when dwindling estrogen supplies leave central neurons susceptible to damage. As you read on, please remember that this is all strictly a theory.

Because our brains are unable to store nutrients, we rely on a steady supply of sugar delivered via the blood to keep our central nervous system ticking. One of estrogen's many useful functions is to promote the entrance of glucose into the brain--after all, can't have Cave Mom keeling over from low brain sugar! As estrogen levels drop during perimenopause, a condition called 'neuroglucopenia' follows which is a fancy name for a brain-fogging lack of readily available glucose.

Researchers theorize that low brain sugar may set off a hot flash which activates part of our involuntary nervous system, the same reaction involved in a 'fight or flight' response to danger. This may be why hot flashes tend to rip us out of a deep early a.m. sleep, hours after our last meal. The alpha-adrenergic surge that follows corrects the starving brain problem thus protecting vulnerable cells from the destructive effects of no sugar.

Perhaps then the women most at risk for losing brain cells to aging and oxidation in an Alzheimer's sort of way are those who 'sail' through menopause without hot flashes. Neuroglucopenia city in their heads, but no adrenal surges to correct the situation.

Or maybe not.


Bear Naked said...

Very interesting theory and I hope they are correct.
I have been post menopausal for a few years and still suffer from hot flashes and night sweats.
It would ease my mind if I knew they were being a help and not a hindrance.
Is it true that some women still have hot flashes and night sweats well into their eighties?
If so, I will probably be one of the *lucky* ones.
Wiping the sweat from my brow as I type this.

Bear((( )))

menopausaloldbag (MOB) said...

Interesting stuff. I don't get the flushes as we call them in the UK but I can overheat from time to time when I have red wine or other stimulants. I am losing weight though and have done a month's detox and that has helped tremendously with the episodes of overheating. I got just about every other bad symptom except the night sweats - thank God!

Wendy said...

Very interesting. I have frequent hypoglycemic attacks. Thought it was just stress (because of hubby). Well maybe it is and maybe it has as much to do with menopause as anything else.

margo said...

That's very intereting. I am just withdrawing from effexor, on which I was placed to reduce the hot flashes. It did the trick for the hot flashes, but it caused other issues so I didn't want to stay on it. Unfortunately, the withdrawal is hell. I honestly believe this drug should be taken off the market.
Anyway, given the ferocity of my hot flashes I should be in great memory shape for many years to come.

Ana Luisa said...

I sure hope this theory is true! After 3-4 years of hot flushes, day and night, I hope to the godesses I don't end up with some sort of dementia.
Well done on your blog, very interesting read.