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LuckyGuy's avatar

What is the evolutionary purpose of the menopausal "Hot flash"?

Asked by LuckyGuy (36899points) December 22nd, 2010

This is based on the question about voice pitch in men and women.

What function do hot flashes serve? Living in a cold climate they are certainly an attractant. There are few things “hotter” than being coupled while a flash takes place.
In other positions, the light layer of sweat is like seasoning food.
Since this condition occurs after child bearing age why should it be so attractive?

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29 Answers

chyna's avatar

As a woman going through that right now, let me just say that there is nothing attractive about hot flashes!
I think women are still being punished for Eve eating that damned apple.

lucillelucillelucille's avatar

My sis says it’s a reminder that she is one day closer to death.Good times! Good times! XD

JilltheTooth's avatar

Well, I’m sure it led to the ability to roast meat, which reduced the deaths from food poisoning significantly. Twenty five women in a cave hot-flashing simultaneously could probably roast a mammoth to perfect done-ness.

misstrikcy's avatar

A Hot Flush is a sympton of the changing levels of oestrogen in our bodies. It directly affects the part of the brain that’s responsible for sex hormones, body temp, sleep patterns, appetite etc. The hypothalmus.. something like that… Correction: Hypothalamus.
For many women it’s a bloody nightmare.

@worriedguy I have never, in all my 40years heard anyone say it was attractive before. Is that just you personally or do you know a lot of guys who say the same thing?

marinelife's avatar

I don’t think it has an evolutionary purpose. It is a side effect of changing hormone levels due to menopause.

Also, only someone who didn’t have them would find them attractive.

Aster's avatar

He just said they’re attractive because he thinks it’s politically correct to say so. It would be like saying a woman finds it attractive when a man stubs his toe and is groaning and cursing.
If it really has an evolutionary purpose it’s to drive men away to younger women who they can then impregnate thus assuring the… human race. I truly believe this.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

I am going to say that since not all women get them (last I checked it was around 80–85% based on different sources), it has no evolutionary link. It is just a body’s response to a drop in hormone levels.

LuckyGuy's avatar

@Aster @chyna Are you kidding me? I wasn’t being PC. Out of the shower everything smells like Dial soap. Sure, that’s nice. But two minutes after a hot flash there is the light taste of salt and… I’m getting a buzz dammit!
Also our bedroom is cold at night, mid 50’s, because I’m too lazy to get up and put more wood on the fire. There are few pleasures as wonderful as rolling over and feeling that heat for the 90 seconds it lasts. And if you are (how do we say this delicately?) coupled, then…. There goes that buzz again..
It is so ephemeral.
@marinelife Men are pigs. We can’t help it.

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

@worriedguy GQ. Just keep your head down for awhile. :)

YoBob's avatar

Well, there really is no purpose since the reproductive years are over.

OTOH, perhaps the hot flashes combined with the other hormonal difficulties serve to drive those who have passed their reproductive years to off themselves thus making room for the next generation. Another possibility is that the whole female menopause thing, in combination with the male mid-life crisis, is a deviously crafted ploy by nature to drive the men away from a relationship with a now barren woman and into the arms of a firtile young hottie.

ETpro's avatar

As much as I would like to concur with @worriedguy‘s PC analysis of the attractiveness of hot flashes, I suspect that @Aster has a more likely answer from evolution’s cold, hard point ov view.

crisw's avatar

Not everything has “an evolutionary purpose.” And, if it did, it would not be something that decreases the reproductive fitness of an individual.

There are some proposed evolutionary reasons for menopause, primarily dealing with the fact that an older women can best enhance the survival of her kin by helping her relatives survive using her experience and wisdom rather than the risky practice of bearing more children. Hot flashes are just a byproduct of this process. It isn’t the hot flashes themselves that have been selected for.

LuckyGuy's avatar

Supposedly my touch feels cool to her. It’s win-win.

I guess 100s of thousands of years ago humans didn’t have the luxury of living very far into the post menopausal years. But it just seems like it has to afford some benefit. Very few traits are all negatives. There is usually a trade-off somewhere. Improved circulation? Retaining a mate not interesting in children?

crisw's avatar

I feel this needs to be reiterated, as it’s one of the most common myths about evolution, and I see it in several places in this discussion.

Evolution is mindless and never works towards a goal. Evolution never acts for the benefit of the species as a whole, and never looks ahead to see what would be best for group survival. Evolution always acts to maximize individual reproductive fitness, even if that is detrimental to the species as a whole. That is why, for example, animals, given sufficient resources, will eat and breed themselves to death.

Evolution doesn’t give a whit about what happens to species. It can’t.

JilltheTooth's avatar

Maybe so, @crisw , and maybe some of us are actually aware of that and just having a bit of a relax, here, but our discussion was funner. XP

LuckyGuy's avatar

@crisw Agreed. Maybe I should reword the question to ask, how do hot flashes “act [sic] to maximize individual reproductive fitness,”?
A can see how it might encourage the act of mating. Maybe it keep the male bits functioning longer?

JilltheTooth's avatar

Oooh, I’ve got it! It hots up the male bits, kills the sperm, then both have to make way for the youngsters to do all the procreating! That fits in perfectly with @worriedguy ‘s “attractive” thing!

LuckyGuy's avatar

@JilltheTooth Good one! I was thinking at acted a bit like natural viagra, reminding the complacent male to use it or lose it.

LuckyGuy's avatar

@misstrikcy I don’t have any statistics but at least in my climate there is a lot to be said for being under the covers with someone warm.

JilltheTooth's avatar

@worriedguy : Just don’t be surprised when she throws off the covers and races outside to roll in the snow…

LuckyGuy's avatar

@JilltheTooth I’ve got no problem with throwing off the covers. At least I can breathe!

gailcalled's avatar

Many non-Western cultures have no word for either menopause or hot flashes in their language. (China, Mayan, Nigerian, Hmong, rural Greece, parts of Micronesia, for example

Some, like the Japanese, have just added several words of Japanesish.




In these societies post-menopausal women are honored and revered. They are considered to be the repositories of wisdom.

LuckyGuy's avatar

@gailcalled Those are great references! It sounds like the Mayan women have certainly got menopause figured out. I did not know there was so much variation in the process.

gailcalled's avatar

@worriedguy: Trust us in Western Europe and the US to turn a natural process into a huge megillah.

rooeytoo's avatar

@JilltheTooth – ga matey, I love living in the tropics but there are those times when I would love to go have a roll in the snow, heheh!

There are some other ga’s up there and I handed out lurve accordingly.

Although I would dump a bucket of ice water or worse on @YoBob. That kind of thinking is what precipitates the megillah @gailcalled was referencing. (I am assuming that means a giant f up for turning a natural process into a disease) His solution sounds like the dillusions of grandeur type thinking that older males often entertain.

Winters's avatar

Hot flashes give women blind fury and rage when upset in the slightest by men. In an environment where the only law is nature, it allows women to go into some scary berserker/werewolf mode in which they slaughter the poor male who may or may not have upset them deliberately, hence maintaining a level population. =D (surprisingly, I’m not dead yet)

YoBob's avatar

@rooeytoo Erm… you do, of course, realize that I was being sarcastic. (something at which I like to think I excel)

For the record, I have been very happily married for darned near a quarter of a century and in all that time (in spite of menopause, mid-life crises, and the various other ups and downs that come with breathing) have never fled to the arms of a fertile young hottie (as intriguing as the idea might be) for the simple reason that I happen to still be madly in love with my wife, hormonally driven insanity, hot flashes, and all.

Merry Christmas Y’all!

rooeytoo's avatar

@YoBob – It is hard to tell because the feelings you wrote are exactly what happens and what is pretty commonplace in the world. And I must admit, I just don’t have that much of a sense of humor when it comes to the subject of old men and their young chickies or males’ treatment of females in general. Now before you jump to any conclusions, I never had it happen to me, I just have had to struggle with men and their attitudes in so many different areas of life that I just don’t find it funny. Even in your disclaimer you felt compelled to take a couple more shots, (hormonally driven insanity, is a nasty one in particular). @Winters has the same sense of humor as you. The problem is, I wonder how much of it is real and how much is just fun???

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