Although the outdoor temperatures may be bitter cold, many people, especially women in their 40s and 50s are still experiencing night sweats. While hot flashes and night sweats are common in perimenopause, there are other factors including stress, thyroid problems, alcohol consumption, and medication side effects that can also contribute to having hot flashes at night. New research has found that persistent hot flashes can be a risk factor for heart attack, stroke, and heart failure.
According to a 20-year study of more than 3,000 menopausal women, those who had frequent hot flashes early in menopause had double the risk of heart attacks, stroke, and heart failure as participants who did not. Subjects who had persistent hot flashes had a 77 percent higher risk.
A recent Prevention Health report explains that night sweats and hot flashes increase heart rate and blood pressure making the heart work harder and producing an inflammatory response that can damage blood vessels. Hot flashes can also elevate LDL or “bad” cholesterol. These factors help account for why the risk for stroke doubles for women in the 10 years following menopause – defined as having an absence of menstruation for a full 12 months.
If you do experience frequent hot flashes or night sweats, don’t just tough it out. Talk with your doctor about treatment options including safe and effective hormonal and nonhormonal therapies. Maintaining a healthy weight, getting regular exercise, quitting smoking, and eating a healthy diet can also help reduce hot flashes. Consuming too much alcohol, simple carbohydrates, or sugary drinks and foods can also cause blood sugar to spike and subsequently drop, causing the body to produce adrenaline and cause sweating.
Studies have found that eating soy may help control hot flashes because foods like tofu and soybeans contain phytoestrogens that mimic estrogen in the body. Following a Mediterranean diet and limiting caffeine is also associated with a reduction in hot flashes and night sweats, according to the Cleveland Clinic.