Hot flashes linked to cardiovascular disease

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In a recent study, hot flashes were indicated to be an underlying risk factor for cardiovascular disease.

Hot flashes linked to cardiovascular disease | Image Credit: © ipopba - © ipopba - stock.adobe.com.

Hot flashes linked to cardiovascular disease | Image Credit: © ipopba - © ipopba - stock.adobe.com.

An association has been identified between hot flashes and cardiovascular disease, according to research highlighted at The Menopause Society 2023 Annual Conference.

Takeaways

  • Hot flashes are a common symptom of menopause transition, affecting approximately 70% of midlife women, and they have been associated with various adverse health effects.
  • Prior research on hot flashes relied on self-reporting, which had limitations due to potential memory or reporting biases.
  • The MsHeart study used physiological evaluation of hot flashes and found an association between physiologically measured hot flashes and increased levels of a high-sensitivity C-reactive protein, a marker of inflammation.
  • These findings suggest a link between hot flashes and cardiovascular disease risk, even after accounting for factors such as age, race, education, estradiol, and body mass index.
  • Healthcare professionals should consider asking their female patients about their hot flash experiences, as they may serve as indicators of cardiovascular disease risk, which is the leading cause of death for women in the United States.

Hot flashes, also known as vasomotor symptoms, have been reported in approximately 70% of midlife women, making them one of the most common symptoms of menopause transition. Alongside impacting an individual’s quality of life, hot flashes have been associated with numerous adverse health effects.

Prior research used self-reporting to determine how the frequency and severity of hot flashes impact heightened systemic inflammation. However, this data was limited by each patient’s ability to remember hot flash experiences within the previous few weeks or longer, leading to potential memory or reporting biases.

Acute infection and clinical disease are often measured by significant increases in inflammatory markers, but the risk of future disease can be measured using small and sustained increases of markers of inflammation. These small and sustained increases have been linked to plaque development and atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease.

Investigators conducted the MsHeart study using sternal skin conductance for physiological evaluation of hot flashes. With 276 participants, the study assessed the potential link between more frequent physiologically assessed hot flashes and heightened system inflammation.

Results of the study indicated an association between hot flashes measured physiologically while awake and increased levels of a high-sensitivity C-reactive protein. This association was found even after adjustments were made for age, race and ethnicity, education, estradiol, and body mass index.

Mary Carson, MS, lead author from the Department of Psychology at the University of Pittsburgh, concluded these results indicate an association between hot flashes and vascular risk. This data can be used to determine women who require focused efforts to reduce cardiovascular disease risk.

“Since heart disease is the leading cause of death for women in the US, studies like these are especially valuable,” said Stephanie Faubion, MD, MBA, medical director of The Menopause Society. “Healthcare professionals need to ask their patients about their hot flash experiences as they not only interfere with their quality of life but may also indicate other risk factors.”

Reference

Hot flashes linked with risk factors for cardiovascular disease. The Menopause Society. September 27, 2023. Accessed October 3, 2023.

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