Are you experiencing hot flashes? If so, you're not alone. Women claim hot flashes as the number one symptom of menopause, with up to 80% of menopausal women experiencing them. A recent study reports that 40% of women begin experiencing hot flashes in the perimenopausal stage, while some don't report them until post-menopause.

The severity and frequency of hot flashes vary by person, but most women claim to experience severe hot flashes. While we don't fully understand why hot flashes vary as they do, we do understand that severe hot flashes can potentially signal more serious cardiac issues. Unfortunately, most women don't seek medical help for their severe hot flashes. If you're experiencing hot flashes, the biostation can help. Keep reading to learn about symptom management to improve your cardiac health.

Hot Flashes and Menopause

Patients describe hot flashes as a sudden surge of heat that leaves the face and neck flushed with heat and excessive full-body sweating. Despite being called a flash, these heat bursts can last as little as 30 seconds or as long as five minutes.

This vasomotor symptom (VMS) of menopause affects three out of four women in the U.S. transitioning through menopause. Most menopausal women have hot flashes for at least six months. They typically stop after two years. But in rare cases, hot flashes can last up to 10 years. And they don't automatically end once you've gone through menopause. Some women report intermittent hot flashes up to 10 years after menopause.

Menopause comes when a woman reaches 12 months without a period. In the months and years leading up to menopause, women can experience various symptoms, such as varied monthly cycles and hot flashes. Doctors refer to this stage as perimenopause or the menopausal transition.

Menopausal transition typically begins between ages 45 to 50. Lifestyle, age, and ethnicity can impact how long the transition lasts. Progesterone and estrogen production also vary during perimenopause, leading to other side effects.

The body begins to use energy differently once you reach menopause. For example, fat cells change, and many women gain weight more easily than before. Other changes include reduced heart and bone health, leaving postmenopausal women more susceptible to heart disease and osteoporosis.

Hot Flashes Linked to Metabolic Syndrome

According to another recent study, patients with moderate to severe hot flashes are more likely to develop metabolic syndrome, a group of conditions that increase the risk of developing heart disease. Metabolic syndrome also increases the risk of diabetes, stroke, and other health concerns.

Signs of metabolic syndrome present as excessive fat at the waist or more than 35 inches for women. Other markers include high blood pressure, high blood sugar, high triglycerides, and low HDL cholesterol.

This study adds to other data pointing to hot flashes as a marker for women at a higher risk of heart disease in the future. Doctors believe early identification is vital for implementing preventive treatments.

There is a clear link between VMS and heart disease. Women who experience moderate to severe hot flashes have a higher chance of developing hypertension and metabolic syndrome.

Unfortunately, the mechanisms involved that link VMS, metabolic syndrome, and heart disease aren't as clear. It's also unclear if metabolic syndrome causes the increased risk of hot flashes or if hot flashes increase the risk of metabolic syndrome.

If you're experiencing moderate to severe hot flashes, there are many available treatment options, such as hormone replacement therapy (HRT).

Understanding the Impact of Hot Flashes on Heart Health

Hot flashes increase your risk of developing hypertension, more commonly called high blood pressure. High blood pressure occurs when the force of blood against the arterial walls is too high, causing the heart to work harder to pump blood.

Normal blood pressure measures 120/80 mm Hg or lower. You have elevated blood pressure if the top number falls between 120-129 mm Hg and the bottom is below 80 mm Hg. Stage 1 hypertension occurs when the top number ranges between 130-139 mm Hg, or the bottom number falls between 80-89 mm Hg.

Stage 2 hypertension is when the top number exceeds 140 mm Hg or the bottom number rises above 90 mm Hg. Blood pressure exceeding 180/120 mm Hg indicates a hypertensive emergency, and you should seek immediate medical attention.

Untreated hypertension increases the risk of stroke, heart attack, and other severe conditions. Most doctors recommend routinely checking your blood pressure every year, beginning at age 18.

Hot flashes can also cause atherosclerosis. Atherosclerosis, most commonly known as the hardening of the arteries, is the thickening and stiffening of the blood vessel walls. This condition prevents optimal functionality. It develops gradually and can start as early as childhood.

Fats, LDL cholesterol, and other substances build up on artery walls over time, restricting blood flow. Restricted blood flow increases the likelihood of heart disease, blood clots, and heart attacks. Fortunately, we can treat and even prevent atherosclerosis.

Managing Hot Flashes and Reducing Heart Disease Risk

As the most common symptom of menopause, you can expect to experience hot flashes as you enter this life stage. Fortunately, you can take steps to reduce their frequency and severity. First, you should ensure you follow a healthy diet. Staying active will also help your body cope with the changes you experience.

As we previously mentioned, HRT therapy is available. HRT was first introduced in clinical trials in the early 1990s and has been used to treat menopausal and postmenopausal symptoms for over 20 years effectively.

Be Proactive

Whether you're just entering the perimenopausal stage or are well past menopause, you're not alone. And you don't have to endure hot flashes and other symptoms without help. At the biostation, we have a team of professionals standing by to provide relief and put you on the path to wellness in this next life stage.

If you're experiencing any of the symptoms we've discussed, we encourage you to schedule a consultation. One of our friendly, knowledgeable staff will answer all your questions and recommend various treatments to get you feeling and being your best.

Pink alarm clock with Menopause text by Jernej Furman is licensed with CC BY 2.0