Sept. 27, 2023 – Hot flashes are widely considered a symptom of menopause that can interfere so severely with quality of life that they’re worth treating. Now, two new studies add to the growing body of evidence that hot flashes may be even more reason to seek medical attention: The sudden sensations of heat can be a risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease, heart disease, and stroke.
Research presented during the North American Menopause Society’s annual meeting this week in Philadelphia shows the hot flashes that occur during sleep may be an early indicator of a woman’s increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease. Researchers found a link between a blood biomarker called beta-amyloid 42/40, which can indicate brain changes linked to a future diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease, CNN reported.
Nearly 250 women took part in the study through the University of Pittsburgh and the University of Illinois. The women were between the ages of 45 and 67 years old and wore a sweat monitor for 3 nights to record hot flashes, according to CNN.
Hot flashes are the sudden warm feeling in the upper body that sometimes causes sweating, and are the most common symptom of menopause, which is the time period when a woman’s menstrual periods become irregular and eventually stop. The heat sensation is most common over the face, neck, and chest, according to the Mayo Clinic. The average age for fully reaching menopause in the U.S. is 51 years old, but it can happen earlier or later.
Hot flashes may also be a warning sign for heart disease, according to a second new study presented by the University of Pittsburgh researchers at the meeting. The frequency and intensity of hot flashes during the day were measured by devices worn by women that could detect how much electricity can be conducted in the skin. The researchers linked the measure with a marker in the blood called high-sensitivity C-reactive protein, which is a sign of inflammation and has been shown by other research to indicate heightened heart disease and stroke risk.
“Since heart disease is the leading cause of death for women in the U.S., studies like these are especially valuable,” Menopause Society Medical Director and Mayo Clinic doctor Stephanie Faubion, MD, said in a statement. “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.”
Neither of the studies has been published yet, CNN reported.