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Think Your Hot Flashes Won’t Kill You? Think Again!
Excerpted from Hot Flash Hell: A Gynecologist's Guide to Turning Down the Heat
By Lauren Streicher, MD
Even if you are willing to spend 10 or more years of your life dressing in layers, tossing and turning all night and carrying a portable fan, the impact of hot flashes goes far beyond the misery of feeling like you are living in a sauna. There is now an abundance of scientific evidence that hot flashes increase the risk of developing cardiovascular disease and other serious medical conditions.
Your Heart on Hot Flashes
Every time you have a hot flash, your heart rate and blood pressure increase. You are not imagining those palpitations! In other words, hot flashes make your heart work harder. It also appears that hot flashes cause an inflammatory response, which in turn damages blood vessels. Add a hot flash-induced elevation of low-density lipoprotein (LDL), the "bad" cholesterol, and it is no wonder that the risk of heart trouble or stroke is associated with women who experience frequent and persistent hot flashes compared to women who are flash free, even when you take other risk factors into consideration such as obesity, smoking and diabetes.
Cardiovascular Disease Is Not the Only Condition Impacted by Hot Flashes
Every time you have a hot flash, you increase your cortisol levels and initiate an inflammatory response, resulting in damage to blood vessels throughout the body. Every organ system is affected.
In a study of more than 5,600 women age 46-57, bone loss correlated with frequency of hot flashes, even when age, weight, smoking, hormone therapy, exercise and other risk factors were taken into consideration. In the United States alone, there are 8 million women with osteoporosis and 34 million women with low bone mass (osteopenia) who are at risk of fracture and don't know it. By age 80, 50% of women have osteoporosis and are at significant risk of fracture if they fall. Fractures from osteoporosis are responsible for 2 million fractures per year. Twenty-five percent of women older than 50 years die as a result of their osteoporotic hip fracture. Osteoporosis is not just about getting shorter.
Insulin is the hormone produced by the pancreas that controls blood sugar metabolism. In adults who have Type 2 diabetes, the body does not respond to normal amounts of insulin (insulin resistance) and requires the pancreas to produce progressively higher amounts. Controlling Type 2 diabetes is important to avoid complications such as cardiovascular disease. Studies show that women who have hot flashes have an increase in insulin resistance which, in turn, increases their risk of developing diabetes, not to mention this may potentially sabotage their efforts to manage their diabetes.
Toughing it out is not a good strategy, but fortunately there are hormonal and nonhormonal safe and effective solutions to reduce or eliminate hot flashes.
A HANDLE ON HOT FLASHES
With hormone therapy, LaVern Rogers gets her life back after menopause.
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