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Hot flushes are not innocent

Updated: Aug 26, 2023

Hot flushes, also known as hot flashes, are a common symptom experienced by many women during menopause. Research suggests that there may be an association between hot flushes and an increased risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD), although the exact mechanisms underlying this link are not fully understood. Several factors may contribute to this association:

1. Vasomotor dysfunction: Hot flushes are thought to be caused by a sudden dilation and constriction of blood vessels, leading to a sensation of intense heat and sweating. This vasomotor dysfunction may reflect underlying changes in vascular health. Studies have shown that women who experience more frequent and severe hot flushes tend to have poorer endothelial function, which is the ability of blood vessels to dilate and constrict properly. Impaired endothelial function is considered an early marker of CVD.

2. Hormonal fluctuations: Hot flushes are primarily driven by hormonal changes, particularly the decline in estrogen levels during menopause. Estrogen is known to have protective effects on the cardiovascular system, including maintaining healthy blood vessel function, reducing inflammation, and improving lipid profiles. The reduction in estrogen levels during menopause may contribute to an increased risk of CVD.

3. Shared risk factors: The occurrence of hot flushes may be indicative of shared underlying risk factors for both hot flushes and CVD. For example, obesity, smoking, sedentary lifestyle, and high blood pressure are all risk factors for both hot flushes and CVD. These common risk factors may partially explain the observed association between hot flushes and increased cardiovascular risk.

It's important to note that while there appears to be an association between hot flushes and increased CVD risk, it does not mean that hot flushes directly cause heart disease. Rather, they may serve as a marker of underlying vascular dysfunction or shared risk factors.

If you are experiencing hot flushes or have concerns about your cardiovascular health, it is advisable to consult with your healthcare provider. They can evaluate your individual risk factors, provide appropriate screening, and offer guidance on managing menopausal symptoms and optimizing cardiovascular health.

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