Hot flashes, a common symptom experienced by many women during menopause, may not only cause discomfort and disrupt daily activities but also increase the risk of heart disease and Alzheimer's. Studies have shown that women who experience frequent and severe hot flashes are more likely to develop heart disease compared to those who do not experience them or have milder symptoms. This is because hot flashes are associated with changes in blood vessels, which can lead to high blood pressure and other cardiovascular issues. Additionally, research suggests that hot flashes may also be linked to an increased risk of developing Alzheimer's disease. This may be due to the decrease in estrogen levels during menopause, which can affect brain function. As such, healthcare providers should pay attention to hot flashes in women and consider them as potential warning signs for these serious health conditions. It is important for women experiencing hot flashes to seek medical advice and monitor their overall health to reduce their risk of heart disease and Alzheimer's.
According to two studies, hot flashes, one of the most common symptoms identified during the menopause transition, may increase the risk of heart disease and Alzheimer’s in women.
Vasomotor symptoms, more often referred to as hot flashes, are with roughly 70 per cent of midlife women reporting them. Not only do they interfere with a woman’s quality of life, but they have also been related to physical health risks.
A study led by researchers University of Pittsburgh included 276 participants and utilised sternal skin conductance to physiologically assess hot flashes and tested whether more frequent physiologically assessed hot flashes are associated with heightened system inflammation.
Their findings showed physiologically assessed hot flashes during wake time were associated with higher levels of a high-sensitivity C-reactive protein, even after adjusting for potential explanatory factors such as age, education, race/ethnicity, body mass index, and oestradiol.
“This is the first study to examine physiologically measured hot flashes about inflammation and adds evidence to a growing body of literature suggesting that hot flashes may signify underlying vascular risk and indicate women who warrant focused cardiovascular disease prevention efforts,” said lead author Mary Carson, from the Department of Psychology at the University of Pittsburgh.
A separate study on 250 midlife women, also led by researchers from the University of Pittsburgh, showed that when hot flashes occur during sleep, it may be early indicators of a woman’s increased risk for Alzheimer’s. And, the more hot flashes, the greater the disease risk.
Women comprise two-thirds of individuals with Alzheimer’s, and there are several theories as to why this is true, with many focused on decreased oestrogen levels that occur during the menopause transition.
The new findings remained significant after additional adjustments for oestradiol and actigraphy-assessed sleep characteristics.
Hot flashes were measured objectively by using ambulatory skin conductance monitoring.
“Among other things, these findings indicate that women who experience frequent hot flashes, particularly during sleep, may warrant Alzheimer’s dementia risk reduction efforts,” said Rebecca Thurston, Director of Women’s Biobehavioral Health at the University’s Department of Psychiatry.
Both studies will be presented during the ongoing 2023 Annual Meeting of The Menopause Society in Philadelphia.
(With IANS Inputs)