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Cardiovascular disease has been a public health emergency for decades, and despite ongoing medical advances the situation appears to remain largely unchanged. Many of the disease’s causes, like high blood pressure and high cholesterol, are well understood. The involvement of other conditions like night sweats, however, is slightly more ambiguous.
Sleep hyperhidrosis – also known as night sweats – tends to occur in episodes that range in severity from moderate sweating to drenching sweats.
Collectively known as vasomotor symptoms, night sweats and hot flashes have been linked to a higher number of conditions during menopause.
In fact, it is estimated that more than 70 percent of women experience hot flashes during the transition period.
They’ve always been understood for their strong implications on quality of life, but less so for their impact on physical health.
Accumulating evidence suggests these symptoms could be linked to a heightened risk of cardiovascular complications in women.
Frequent hot flashes have specifically been linked to a poorer cardiovascular risk factor profile, including high blood pressure, atherosclerosis, insulin resistance and dyslipidemia.
The latest research, published in Neurology, has also linked the vasomotor symptoms to “lesions in the brain”, and indicators of brain health like markers of small vessel disease in the brain.
Doctor Rosa Sancho, Head of Research at Alzheimer’s Research UK, said: “Dementia disproportionately affects women.
“While women can expect to live longer than men, this alone does not explain the difference in the number of people developing dementia, and scientists have been dealing deeper into the biological variations that could underlie this effect.”
Sofiya Shreyer, the lead author of the latest study from the Anthropology department at the University of Massachusetts, noted: “We know that sleep disturbances are one of the biggest detriments for women going through menopause.
“These results [however] are unique because they show that women experiencing night sweats, rather than just hot flashes, maybe at an even bigger disadvantage.
“This study adds to the growing evidence that menopause symptoms such as hot flashes and night sweats can significantly detract from a women’s quality of life and should be taken seriously by healthcare professionals.”
The researchers added that further research is needed to fully understand the mechanisms of these symptoms and their overall effect on a woman’s menopause experience.
The latest research reinforces a 2020 meta-analysis by researchers at the University of Queensland.
It found women who have menopausal symptoms like hot flushes and night sweats were 70 percent more likely to have heart attacks and strokes, than those without symptoms.
The research, by the UQ School of Public Health PhD student Doctor Dongshan Zhu established, suggested that women of any age who experience hot flushes and night sweats were more likely to suffer non-fatal cardiovascular events.
A flaw that was pointed out in the study, however, was that the patient’s lipid profile and diabetes status had not been taken into account.
What’s more, some experts pointed out that some study participants may have been taking hormonal therapy at the study, suggesting this could have been the cause for the correlation.
Nonetheless, clinical studies using physiologic assessments are now providing evidence that frequent and severe hot flashes may signal women who are at increased cardiovascular disease risk at midlife and beyond.
The University of Pittsburgh will present the latest findings at The North American Menopause Society Annual Meeting.
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