The biological triggers for hot flashes may be linked to Alzheimer’s Disease and heart disease, new study says
Hot flashes are often dismissed as an unpleasant symptom of menopause, more inconvenient than harmful.
For the study, blood was drawn and analyzed from women who wore devices overnight that monitored their sweat and sleep.
In the Alzheimer’s study, researchers were looking for a specific protein — beta-amyloid 42/40 —which the National Institute of Health says “appears to play a central role in the pathology of Alzheimer's disease.”
“This is the first time science has shown hot flashes are linked to blood biomarkers of Alzheimer’s disease,” Dr. Stephanie Faubion, director of the Mayo Clinic’s Women’s Health Specialty Clinic and medical director for The Menopause Society, told CNN.
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Hot flashes, of course, are a ubiquitous symptom of menopause, defined as the cessation of the menstrual cycle after 12 months without a period. They are characterized by a sudden feeling of warmth and can be accompanied by bouts of intense sweating, often at night, the Mayo Clinic says.
The average age for menopause in the United States is 51, according to the Mayo Clinic, but symptoms may start long beforehand.
“We found night sweats were associated with adverse beta-amyloid 42/40 profiles, indicating that hot flashes experienced during sleep may be a marker of women at risk of Alzheimer’s dementia,” lead study author Dr. Rebecca Thurston, a professor of psychiatry, epidemiology and psychology who directs the Women’s Biobehavioral Health Laboratory at the University of Pittsburgh’s Pitt Public Health, told CNN.
Hot flashes also indicated potential heart disease. For that study, which also involved testing the blood of women who wore overnight monitors, the researchers looked for C-reactive protein, which the Mayo Clinic says is made by the liver in response to inflammation and can indicate an increased risk of heart attacks.
“This is the first study to examine physiologically measured hot flashes in relation to inflammation and adds evidence to a growing body of literature suggesting that hot flashes may signify underlying vascular risk,” lead author Mary Carson, a clinical and bio-health doctoral student in the department of psychology at the University of Pittsburgh, told CNN in a statement.
Researchers pointed out that hot flashes weren’t a cause of Alzheimer’s disease or heart disease, merely an indicator; They cautioned those experiencing hot flashes to speak with their doctors and take proactive measures to ensure good heart health.
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