Hot Flashes Linked to Higher Cholesterol

November 12, 2012

Hot Flashes Linked to Higher Cholesterol

A study in which researchers investigated more than 3,000 women is shortly to be presented to the North American Menopause Society in Washington D.C. at its 22nd annual meeting. The study investigates the association between hot flushes and higher cholesterol levels in the blood and any outcomes indicated by the findings.

In recent years some studies have indicated that there may be a link between hot flushes and a higher chance of developing heart disease. This new research seems to show that the link may be between the menopause and an increased level of cholesterol in the blood.

The study targeted the 3,000 women who were all aged in their forties and fifties and investigated them for a period of seven years. During this time they progressed through the menopause.

The study allowed for other heart condition risks factors when considering the findings. The researchers found that if a woman had more hot flushes then her cholesterol level increased. If she was subject to hot sweats at night then her cholesterol level rose too, but not by so much. Both forms of cholesterol, LDL – bad and HDL – good, increased.

High levels of HDL are considered to be good, and are thought to reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke, however high levels of LDL are considered bad because they increase the risk of heart disease and stroke. For this reason the findings are somewhat inconclusive.

Researcher Rebecca C. Thurston, PhD, of the University of Pittsburgh accepts that the findings may be multifaceted and says, “I think hot flashes and night sweats tell us something about women’s cardiovascular risk and health, but it is also likely that this message is quite complex”.

Is Increased Cholesterol Related to Hot Flushes?

The study analyzed women who had enrolled in the SWAN initiative (Study of Women’s Health Across the Nation). The 3,021 women started the study when they were between 42 and 52. During the period of the study they gave blood samples at the start and annually thereafter. The blood was analyzed for fat levels, LDL, HDL, tryglycerides, as well as apolipoproteins ApoE and ApoA.

Those women who were perimenopausal and postmenopausal and had hot flushes six or more days within a fourteen day period were classified as having a high occurrence of hot flushes. When investigated it was found that these women had significantly increased levels of LDL, HDL, tryglycerides, ApoE, and ApoA in their blood than women who had no hot flushes. These increased levels remained even after other risk factors were allowed for. These factors include age, diet and body weight.

Heart Disease and the Menopause

Professor of Medicine, Lori Mosca MD, PhD, is the director of preventive cardiology at New York-Presbyterian Hospital and a past president of the American Society for Preventive Cardiology and she acknowledges that presently it is not known what affect menopausal symptoms such as hot flushes have on the risk of heart disease or stroke.

Of the study finding relating to hot flushes and a link to increased levels of both good and bad cholesterol she says candidly, “If hot flashes really are associated with higher levels of both good and bad cholesterol, I have no idea what that means”. She concludes that, “the take home message is not clear”.

She does indicate, however, that the menopause does have a link to changes to risk of heart disease. She urges, “This is an important time to see your doctor and have your cardiovascular risk assessed”.

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