Journal / Hot Flashes

The Link Between Hot Flashes and Heart Disease

Medically reviewed by Dr. Green OB/GYN

Written by Winona Editorial Team

Last updated October 14, 2021

Hot Flashes and Heart Disease

This article will help you solve your question, “How are hot flashes and heart disease connected?” Hot flashes are a very common symptom of menopause, and 85% of women will experience them in some form. For some women, hot flashes are occasional and go away after a year or two. These less severe types of hot flashes are not caused by heart disease.

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For others, the ongoing hot flashes are much more frequent and they last for many years or even throughout the second half of their life. They are an exhausting symptom of menopause. These frequent hot flashes, which persist for years, may be a risk factor for developing heart disease.  Heart disease is the leading cause of death for American women, but not all women who experience hot flashes will develop heart disease.1

Recent research has shown evidence that frequent or persistent hot flashes are linked to higher odds of heart attachand stroke.1 Women who had frequent hot flashes had a far greater risk of heart problems, as much as 80% higher risk over 20 years.1 If you are in this category, don’t panic, having a risk factor for heart disease, or heart problems, doesn’t mean you will end up suffering from heart disease, it just means you may have a bit higher chance of getting it in the future, and you may need to make some lifestyle changes.

Risk Factors of Hot Flashes and Heart Disease

There are two types of medical risk factors, modifiable and non-modifiable. Modifiable risk factors are things that you have control over and can change by adjusting your behaviors or by taking medications. Some examples of modifiable risk factors for common heart disease or heart problems include obesity, sedentary lifestyle, and diabetes. Non-modifiable risk factors are those that you can’t change. Some examples of non-modifiable risk factors for heart disease include age and family history. 

The elevated risk of heart disease in women who suffer from frequent hot flashes is not explained by things like blood pressure, diabetes, obesity, exercise, or smoking, which are our usual suspects.1 So, how to reduce the risk of heart problems?

Research seems to indicate that by treating hot flashes we can potentially reduce the risk of heart disease and heart problems for women with frequent, persistent hot flashes. Some studies have shown decreased common heart disease rates if hot flashes have been treated, while others have proven inconclusive so we do not yet know if this is a modifiable or non-modifiable risk factor. 

Emerging data also indicates that the timing of when hormone replacement therapy treatment is started may be important to reducing the risk of heart disease. Women who begin hormone replacement therapy (HRT) treatment before the age of 60 likely gain the benefit of lowering their risk of heart disease.

The American College of Cardiology reviewed one large study and stated, “Women using hormone replacement therapy to relieve the symptoms of menopause faced a lower risk of death and showed lower levels of atherosclerosis, or plaque buildup in the heart’s arteries, compared to women not using hormone therapy.” In other words, by reducing hot flashes,  heart problems were also reduced. 

There are many ways to treat hot flashes. Estrogen replacement, or HRT,  is the most effective way, but there are other options for women who are not candidates for estrogen replacement due to their medical history. Even if HRT does not reduce the risk of heart disease, it may be worth using for the quality of life benefits. Women with frequent and persistent hot flashes should also consider what modifiable risk factors of heart disease they might have and address those risk factors to decrease their overall heart disease risk.

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Smoking, excessive alcohol intake, lack of exercise, and being overweight are all risk factors for heart disease. These risk factors are modifiable and although not necessarily easy, can be changed with some lifestyle modifications. We encourage all women to lower their risk of heart disease by modifying behavior to address these risk factors. This becomes even more important in women with other risk factors of heart disease such as frequent and persistent hot flashes.

High blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes are also modifiable risk factors of heart disease. These may require help from your doctor to address these risks. It is important to visit your doctor every year to have these risk factors checked. For women with these medical conditions, more frequent visits may be necessary. It is very important to take medications that may be prescribed to treat these conditions according to your doctor’s recommendations.

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Summary 

Women who suffer from hot flashes for many years may be at risk for developing heart disease.  Heart disease is the leading cause of death for American women. Women in menopause are at a greater risk of preventable chronic diseases like heart problems, diabetes, and high blood pressure. Women who begin hormone replacement therapy (HRT) treatment before the age of 60 likely gain the benefit of lowering their risk of heart disease.  

Winona sells a wide variety of hormone replacement therapy products that can help reduce hot flashes. Winona also encourages all women to understand their individual risks based on family history and their medical information like blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood sugar.  Of course, regular exercise, a healthy diet, maintaining an appropriate weight, getting enough sleep, not smoking, and paying attention to good mental health.

If women embrace their evolving bodies by providing the hormones their body needs they can move through this sometimes precarious phase with grace and wellness.  Winona offers our patients a unique experience. Winona’s healthcare platform is a place to safely connect with a healthcare provider to receive care, to ask sometimes difficult and maybe even embarrassing questions. Winona is not just a site to get a quick prescription. The decision to treat and whether to prescribe a product available through Winona is up to the patient and their Winona affiliated providers who are all licensed, board-certified, and never financially motivated to prescribe.

Winona is proud of our doctors, providers, and scientists who work tirelessly to treat all of the symptoms of menopause in the most effective way. That treatment might be a prescription or it could be one of our many over-the-counter treatments, but it will be the treatment that the patient and their doctor devise together. 

“This article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. The information contained herein is not a substitute for professional medical advice. Always talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of any treatment.”

References:

  1. Bansal, Ramandeep. “Menopausal Hot Flashes: A Concise Review.” Journal of Midlife Health, vol. 10, no. 1, 2019, pp. 6-13.

  2. Gast, G. “Hot flushes and night sweats are associated with coronary heart disease risk in midlife: a longitudinal study.” BJOG, vol. 122, no. 11, 2015, pp. 1560-1567.

  3. Writing Group for the Women’s Health Initiative Investigators. “Risks and Benefits of Estrogen Plus Progestin in Healthy Postmenopausal Women Principal Results From the Women’s Health Initiative Randomized Controlled Trial.” JAMA, vol. 288, no. 3, 2002, pp. 321-333.

  4. Hodis, Howard. “Hormone replacement therapy and the association with coronary heart disease and overall mortality: Clinical application of the timing hypothesis.” The journal of Steroid and Molecular Biology, vol. 142, 2014, pp. 68-75.

  5. Glenn, Katie. “Hormone Replacement Therapy Associated with Lower Mortality.” American College of Cardiology.org, https://www.acc.org/about-acc/press-releases/2017/03/08/13/09/hormone-replacement-therapy-associated-with-lower-mortality.

  6. Gast, G. “Hot flushes and night sweats are associated with coronary heart disease risk in midlife: a longitudinal study.” BJOG, vol. 122, no. 11, 2015, pp. 1560-1567.

  7. Hodis, Howard. “Hormone replacement therapy and the association with coronary heart disease and overall mortality: Clinical application of the timing hypothesis.” The journal of Steroid and Molecular Biology, vol. 142, 2014, pp. 68-75.

  8. MedlinePlus. 2016, October 21. Menopause [Article] Retrieved From: https://medlineplus.gov/menopause.html

  9. https://www.womenshealth.gov/menopause/

  10. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6533072/

  11. https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/hot-flashes-what-can-i-do

  12. https://www.webmd.com/heart-disease/news/20190924/more-hot-flashes-could-up-odds-for-heart-trouble