Hot flashes experienced by women before and during menopause may not be as violent and life-threatening as global warming. Still, there is certainly a relationship between them. Climate change does not cause hot flashes, but it plays a part in the intensity or otherwise of the condition.
There has been a lot of talk about the harmful effects of climate change on popular areas like the environment, healthcare in general, weather conditions as well as agriculture; however, nearly nobody talks about how the changes in the climate and weather are detrimental to the health and general well-being of menopausal women especially in regards to vasomotor symptoms such as hot flashes.
Everyone feels the impact of climate change. Both men and women alike can testify to how their lives have been affected by the unfavorable turns of climate change.
However, women are affected in peculiar ways by these alterations to what we knew as the climate and the earth before.
Certain conditions experienced by women due to changes in our bodies due to old age, for example, menopause, are aggravated by the unfavorable outcomes of changes in the climate.
Menopause is the stage of a woman’s reproductive life at which she is medically incapable of conception or childbirth. This phase commences after the woman has gone 12 concurrent months without seeing her menstrual period. At the end of the 12 dry months, she is declared postmenopausal.
During menopause and the years leading to menopause, known as perimenopause, you would witness several signs and symptoms, which are usually a result of the changes in the hormone levels in your body. Hormonal imbalance is a major characteristic of perimenopause and menopause.
Menopause is a major disruption to how your body has been conditioned to work for many years; thus, it is no surprise that it affects how many hormones are produced in your body and their proportions. For instance, estrogen, the most important hormone needed for the smooth working of the female body, is usually in short supply owing to menopause.
A slew of signs and symptoms marks these fluctuations in hormone levels. These symptoms include vaginal dryness and the closely related painful sexual intercourse, insomnia, hair thinning, bloating, changes to the appearance of your skin, and hot flashes
While hormonal imbalance has been identified as the primary internal cause of most of these symptoms, external factors are also to blame for the severity of these signs and symptoms. For example, some of these symptoms, such as hot flashes, can be exacerbated by external factors such as what you eat, lifestyle, underlying disease conditions, and even climate change.
What are Hot Flashes?
When I hit menopause at the age of 45, I noticed an increase in the intensity of some of the perimenopausal symptoms that I experienced in the years leading up to the twelve months that ushered me into that stage in every woman’s life at which she bids goodbye to conception and childbirth.
One of such intensified symptoms was the heat surges that usually course through my body, leaving my body sweaty and skin hot. It lasts for about 3 minutes, after which it dies down slowly. I remember thinking it was fever due to the increased regularity and severity of the hot flashes. I felt like I was in the middle of an Australian wildfire outbreak.
Also known as vasomotor symptoms, these surges were similar to night sweats which were the nightly versions of these flashes of heat sensation. In addition, some other related discomforting conditions result from the heat surges. They include reddening of the skin, restlessness, mood swings, increased heartbeat rate, etc.
These hot flashes – perhaps owing to the embarrassing state it leaves you in – bring about general discomfort and weakness of the body, which can disrupt or cause a hindrance to your schedule or plans.
You should contact your doctor like I did if it gets too serious. It constitutes a major disruption to important activities like attending a meeting or the smooth running of your job.
Many women experience hot flashes as a symptom of menopause for several years after menopause before its occurrence decreases or stop totally. However, the worst-case scenarios are usually during the first few years of menopause.
What is the Cause of Hot Flashes?
There is yet to be any specific reason for these heat surges. However, research has pointed to certain alterations in the thermoregulatory center of the brain as a probable cause for the condition. As the nomenclature suggests, the brain’s thermoregulatory center is the part of the hypothalamus in the brain that regulates the production of heat and how much heat is lost or given off by the body. The functions of this part of the brain are affected by hormones.
Radical fluctuations in hormone levels characterize menopause. This uneven supply of hormones begins to occur in the years even before menopause proper. It leads to hormonal imbalance, especially in the two main hormones essential to the female body: estrogen and progesterone. Thus, one hormone may be in a larger supply while the body rarely produces the other.
These ups and downs in hormone production levels are believed to affect the brain’s thermoregulatory point of the hypothalamus, thus leading to loss of control of heat production and, hence, hot flashes and night sweats.
Apart from the above speculations on the probable cause of hot flashes, certain external factors have been found to set the condition in motion, including exercise, alcohol, hot and spicy food, clothes that fit too tightly to the body, smoking, substance abuse, stress, and hot weather.
What is Climate Change?
When we talk about climate change, we mean the drastic changes in the pattern for which we know weather and temperature. These changes are not sudden. They accumulate over time.
While some of the changes may not have any relationship to human activities, for instance, changes in climate due to alterations in the solar cycle, man’s activities have accounted for the bulk of these changes in recent times.
Burning fossil fuels such as oil, gas, and coal is at the heart of greenhouse gas emissions, promoting global warming. But, by forming a covering around the earth, holding in the heat from the sun, these dangerous gasses are sure to be our undoing.
Carbon dioxide and methane are the most dangerous and lethal of the numerous harmful gases threatening our planet’s continued enjoyment and habitation. They are produced when we use gasoline for our cars, buildings or meals.
Other sources of these harmful gasses are deforestation, which releases carbon dioxide. At the same time, methane is emitted in high proportions in landfills where waste materials are buried underground.
Greenhouse Gas build-up has risen to frightening levels in the last 2 million years, yet this does not stall the rise in emissions. It translates to an increase in the Earth’s temperature. The Earth is getting hotter by the day. The last ten years have been sentenced to be the hottest period yet.
It is easy to wave off climate change as just hotter weather or temperature build-up, but these are only the tip of the iceberg. Climate change is more complicated and far-reaching than just rising and falling temperatures. The uniquely interconnected nature of our planet means that these harmful changes can affect many parts and peoples of the world. Unhealthy activities carried on in one part of the world can bring about climate change in a different part of the world. The consequential damage from these changes may be borne by people in different parts of the world.
Indeed, we cannot talk about the results of climate change without the dire lack of rainfall known as droughts, dangerous wildfires, defrosting of polar ice, destructive storms, excessive flooding, rise in sea levels, and reduction in biodiversity.
All these seldom happen together in the same place. Different places and people are affected in divergent ways by climate change. Whichever way they are affected, their lives never remain the same. Climate change greatly impacts people’s health and even their healthcare access. It threatens the organized and serene life that many have scheduled for themselves. Houses are no longer safe from ferocious storms and flooding. The safety of lives and property is hardly assured.
While everyone cries out about these unfavorable occurrences, some people are particularly impacted by climate change due to their living conditions or where they live.
For instance, long-lasting droughts mean famine and starvation for people dependent on subsistence farming for food supply.
Likewise, people who live along the coastal regions, islands, or developing countries with poor drainage networks are at the receiving end of flooding, sea-level rise, and destructive storms.
The severity of the impact of climate change cannot be overlooked. While communities have had to move out of their age-long settlements due to landslides and flooding, unending droughts have put many lives on the line with the fear of starvation.
Many people are on the run to find greener pastures and safe havens from the scary impacts of climate change.
Studies show an expected geometrical increase in the number of people fleeing their communities due to climate change. These evacuees are called ‘climate refugees.’
Women, too, are specifically affected by the changes in weather conditions. For example, extreme weather conditions have been traced to the root of severe hot flashes in menopausal women.
Climate change is that even the tiniest increase in global warming can be detrimental. In a report by the United Nations in 2018, climate experts agreed that the global temperature needs to be maintained at least at 1.5°C to prevent global warming from increasing. The planet needs to be comfortably habitable.
Fast track to current statistics on global warming, the world’s temperature is predicted to get up to 2.7°C at the close of the century.
We are all affected by harmful emissions from all over the world to cause climate change. However, the fact is that there are some industries and countries that contribute more to these dangerous emissions than others. These are countries said to have a large carbon footprint.
While the least harmful emission-producing countries are about 100 and contribute to just 3 percent of all the emissions that cause global warming, 10 countries are marked out as the heaviest producers of dangerous emissions. These 10 highest emitters are accountable for 68 percent of global emissions.
Indeed, the battle against climate change is for all of us to fight, but the people and entities that cause a huge part of the problem should be at the forefront.
How Can We Survive Climate Change?
The challenge of combating and taming this wild beast of climate change we created is huge. Still, there are a lot of solutions at our disposal already. Experts have come up with wonderful sustainable solutions that not only counter the harmful effects of climate change and decrease emission levels but also provide viable economic opportunities for growth and development while improving health and general well-being. Moreover, these solutions are essentially environmentally friendly, so they cater to preserving our natural environment and are a means to shield us from the unfavorable effects of climate change.
In the same vein, many global regulations and agreements are engineered to ensure the progress of the fight against climate change. Among them are the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the Paris Agreement, and the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. The major efforts are summed up under three main divisions:
Reducing emissions drastically.
Adjusting to the indelible impacts of climate change.
Ensuring that funds are available to run these adjustments.
Transitioning from using energy sources such as fossil fuels to renewables that are cleaner and not harmful will significantly cut down on emissions. Renewable energy includes wind, solar, biomass, and hydro energy. Whatever is to be done must be done expeditiously.
Many countries are joining in on the campaign and working on getting to zero-emission levels by 2050. However, to ensure that global warming does not reach an unmanageable height above 1.5°C, the current emission level must be cut at least by half before 2030. The production of fossil fuels must invariably be reduced yearly by at least 6 percent from 2020 to 2030.
A crucial characteristic of living things is an adaptation for survival. We must adapt to climate change’s current results if we must protect businesses, homes, economies, infrastructure, and the environment at large. Adjustments are not meant for only the current climate change impacts but also futuristically for the projected future impacts of climate change.
Adaptation is necessary for all, but there is a need to provide relief for people in dire need of it who do not have the means to manage or adapt to the harsh consequences of climate change. Adaptation strategies have proved over time to be of great help.
For example, weather and disaster forecasts have been known to prevent or minimize the losses incurred in natural disasters such as flooding, tsunamis, and violent storms occasioned by climate change. In addition, these warning mechanisms have saved money and lives which could have been irretrievably lost.
We can start now to pay the price for the redemption of our planet, or we can bid our time and have to pay even more in the future. It is no gainsaying that action against climate change is capital intensive. A lot of money will have to be provided by governments and big multinationals to preserve the Earth’s life.
One important step is the need to fulfill the annual $100 billion contribution pledge by industrialized countries toward aiding developing countries grappling with the impacts of climate change and embracing environmentally-friendly economies.
However, while this may seem overwhelming for everyone, we have a price to pay for folding our hands and doing nothing in the face of worsening climate change. We cannot fully pay for the effect in human currency – it can cost millions of lives and property.
Climate Change and Menopausal Hot Flashes
It is projected that in the next 25 years, at least 1 billion women worldwide will be over the age of 50. That is 1 billion postmenopausal women. About 73 percent of women who have reached menopause experience the telltale signs and symptoms of that phase. These signs are also known as vasomotor symptoms.
These predictions do not consider some seemingly unconventional factors that affect women’s health. For instance, it does not contemplate that changes in the environment due to climate change can have a drastic impact on women’s health and general well-being.
Top global reviews of the impact of climate change do not consider the impact of climate change on menopausal vasomotor symptoms especially hot flashes or night sweats.
In addition, there is a shortage of scientific research on climate change’s impact on menopausal women, especially how it affects their symptoms.
This vacuum in research and publicity does not invalidate the fact that there are different ways in which vasomotor symptoms affect menopausal women. Changes in temperature and weather conditions can increase the severity and frequency of some of these symptoms.
As discussed earlier in this piece, hot flashes are one of the vasomotor symptoms that protracted hot weather conditions can exacerbate due to climate change. However, hot seasons like summer have been there since the beginning of time. Therefore, women have found a way to manage the burden of menopausal hot flashes during that period.
However, temperatures during summer now get to extraordinary highs, thus making it sometimes extremely burdensome for women to manage this condition.
Some scholars have pointed to artificial environmental cooling as a viable means of managing raging hot flashes during hot seasons and weather. Still, the effectiveness and efficiency of this hypothesis are yet to be fully verified.
Conversely, very cold weather conditions provide soothing relief for hot flashes. Climate change is hugely influenced by human actions and inactions, which can greatly affect the weather in a particular region.
Depending on the area, harsh weather conditions caused by climate change can be very cold or hot. For instance, the weather in cold areas can become unbearably freezing. It will, in turn, increase the chances of people living in that area being adversely affected by this.
While it may be difficult to ascertain the definite degree of harm suffered by an individual due to these unfavorable occurrences, the estimated impacts resulting from worsened menopausal symptoms are consequential.
Managing Hot Flashes in Very Hot Weather
Luckily, these aggravated symptoms are not without remedy. The following tips can come in handy in managing vasomotor symptoms that have been worsened by climate change.
When choosing outfits, consider the possibility of hot flashes, so dress in layers so that you can take off some clothes and let them in the air without appearing awkward.
Choose outfits made of natural fibers because of their cooler feel compared to synthetic fibers.
Get a small hand fan that you can carry around for easy ventilation.
Cold packs and wipes can also give the urgent cooling that you need.
Avoid food, areas, and other external factors that can set off your symptoms.
Consider getting an acupuncture treatment as it is believed to help relieve hot flashes.
Other conventional menopausal symptoms treatments such as hormone replacement therapy can also help ease the impact of climate change on vasomotor symptoms.
Managing the usual menopausal symptoms alone is a lot of work, especially when these symptoms are worsened by uncontrollable factors such as climate change.
The unfavorable impacts of climate change have made it to the plan of many high-profile meetings on the topic. It is hoped that the gender-specific impacts of this common enemy will not be overlooked in such important deliberations.