Meno Health. Clinical Evidence.

EN TWC #060: Hot flushes are more dangerous than previously thought.

Dear MHI reader

Hot flushes are widely known as a common symptom of the menopause. They are characterized by sudden feelings of warmth, often accompanied by sweating. These episodes can be particularly disruptive and interfere with daily activities and sleep quality. Until now, hot flushes were considered a harmless but unpleasant part of the menopausal transition, which typically occurs around the age of 51.

New risks associated with hot flushes

However, recent studies have shown that hot flushes can be more than just an annoyance. They could indicate underlying health risks, including increased susceptibility to Alzheimer’s disease, heart disease and strokes. These findings emphasize the need for increased medical attention and proactive management of menopausal symptoms.

Hot flashes: A marker for Alzheimer’s?

New research findings

Groundbreaking research presented at the annual meeting of the North American Menopause Society in Philadelphia points to a possible link between hot flashes during sleep and an increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease. Researchers have found that these nocturnal hot flashes may be an early indicator of changes in the brain associated with Alzheimer’s disease.

The beta-amyloid 42/40 biomarker

The studies found a link between hot flushes and elevated levels of the biomarker beta-amyloid 42/40 in the blood. This biomarker is known to be associated with the formation of amyloid plaques in the brain, which are a hallmark of Alzheimer’s disease. Although these results do not establish a causal link, they suggest that frequent night sweats could be a warning sign of future cognitive decline.

The study in detail

Demographic data and methods of the participants

Almost 250 women aged 45 to 67 from the University of Pittsburgh and the University of Illinois took part in the study. The participants wore sweat meters for three nights to record the occurrence of hot flashes. The blood samples were then analyzed for beta-amyloid 42/40 levels.

Key findings and implications

The study found a significant association between nocturnal hot flashes and unfavorable beta-amyloid profiles. This suggests that women who sweat frequently at night have a higher risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. These findings highlight the importance of monitoring and treating menopausal symptoms to reduce long-term health risks.

Heart disease and hot flushes

Inflammation and cardiovascular risk

In a second study presented by researchers at the University of Pittsburgh, a link was found between daytime hot flashes and inflammatory markers associated with heart disease. Specifically, the frequency and intensity of hot flashes correlated with levels of high-sensitivity C-reactive protein (hs-CRP), an inflammatory marker associated with cardiovascular risk.

The role of C-reactive protein

C-reactive protein is a recognized marker of inflammation in the body. Elevated hs-CRP levels are associated with an increased risk of heart disease and stroke. The results of the study suggest that frequent hot flushes not only affect quality of life, but could also be an indication of underlying cardiovascular problems.

What are the causes of hot flushes?

The biological mechanisms

Hot flushes are caused by complex interactions between the brain, blood vessels and hormonal changes during the menopause. A drop in oestrogen levels disrupts the body’s ability to regulate temperature, leading to sudden feelings of heat and sweating.

Common triggers and variations

There are several factors that can trigger hot flashes, such as stress, spicy food, caffeine, alcohol and warm environments. The frequency and intensity of hot flushes can vary greatly from woman to woman and depends on individual health, lifestyle and genetic factors.

Practical steps for coping with hot flushes

Also in our newsletter #028: Hot flushes – Why and what can I do about them? we show you what you can do about hot flushes.

Adjustments to your lifestyle

– Maintain a healthy weight: being overweight can increase the frequency of hot flushes.

– Avoid triggers: Recognize and avoid personal triggers such as spicy food, caffeine and alcohol.

– Practice stress management: Techniques such as deep breathing, meditation and yoga can help reduce hot flashes.

Medical treatments

– Medication: Hormone therapy with low-dose estrogen (with or without progestin) is usually the most effective treatment, but it also carries risks.

– Non-hormonal treatments: New treatments such as those using hop extracts may also be used.

Optimizing the sleeping environment

– Keep the bedroom cool: Use air conditioning, fans or open windows to create a cool sleeping environment. Aim for a bedroom temperature of 18°C.

– Use breathable bedding: Opt for lightweight, moisture-wicking bedding and sleepwear to help regulate body heat during sleep.

– More tips: #029: Insomnia – Why and what can I do about it?

What does this mean for me?

If you suffer from hot flushes, especially during the night, it is advisable to tackle them consistently. Of course, you can also use our online menopause symptom checker.

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