Heart disease, flashes and sweats, oh my!

Posted by on Feb 11, 2011 in heart disease | 1 comment

Heart disease is a major issue in women, especially as they age. In fact, more women die of heart disease than all forms of cancer, including breast cancer. During the time right before and up to five years after menopause starts, cholesterol and low-density lipoprotein (LDL) levels soar, placing women at even greater risk.

I’ve written previously about the link between waning estrogen levels and heart disease risk and steps you can take to address specific risk factors. But what about vasmotor symptoms like hot flashes and night sweats? Unfortunately, in addition to being linked to elevated cholesterol and LDL, researchers are discoveringĀ that vasomotor symptoms like hot flashes and night sweats actually cause calcium deposits to build up in the arteries and aorta, negatively blood pressure and increase body mass index compared to women without these symptoms.

In the latest bit of news from the research front (published in February issue of Menopause), it appears that night sweats might be the larger culprit. In fact, when researchers examined data culled from 10,787 Dutch women (mean age 53) participating in another study who were free of heart disease at the start, they discovered that over a period of approximately 10 years, women reporting night sweats had a 33% increased risk for heart disease compared to women who were asymptomatic. In comparison, hot flashes did not appear to increase risk in any significant way. What’s more, risk remained even after the researchers accounted for factors that might influence risk, such as BMI, blood pressure and total cholesterol. Additionally, elevated risk was even seen among women both who had used hormone replacement and had never used hormone therapy or oral contraceptives.

Before you become anxious about these findings, it is important to note that when the researchers did a second analysis that adjusted for sleep and mood (both of which have been linked to vasomotor symptoms and heart disease), and found that while risk was still elevated, it was no longer significant. This implies that factors other than night sweats might also be contributing to heart disease risk, and that the sympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for increases in nervous system activity and blood vessel abnormalities, may also play a role.

Meanwhile, prevention recommendations continue to be fairly straightforward:

  • Don’t smoke or quit if you do.
  • Exercise…at least an hour daily if you can.
  • Eat a health diet, rich in whole grains, fruits and vegetables, healthy fats, fish oils and low fat proteins.
  • Maintain a healthy weight.
  • Drink in moderation.

Ladies, we are in control of our destinies when it comes to altering how we age in that we can influence certain factors. There are no guarantees. But you can bet that we can change the odds in our favour.

Please, please care for your heart. It matters. A lot.

One Comment

  1. 8-12-2014

    I am taking Plavix and Lipitor and Folic Acid. I suffer from sever Hot Flashes.. In which people can see it coming on, and get very bad. Is there a safe natural product I can use ..really .. anything!!! I have been suffering with these for 20 yrs,, but now they are getting worse?? ANY HELP ????


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