Hot flashes, especially when they occur during sleep, may be early indicators of a woman’s increased risk for Alzheimer’s disease. And, the more hot flashes, the greater the disease risk, according to research that will be presented during the 2023 Annual Meeting of The Menopause Society, set for Sept 27-30 in Pennsylvania. 

Women comprise two-thirds of individuals with Alzheimer’s disease, and there are a number of theories as to why this is true, with many focused on decreased estrogen levels that occur during the menopause transition. Prior research has linked one of the most common symptoms of menopause—hot flashes—with poor memory performance and alterations in brain structure, function, and connectivity. However, it is unknown whether hot flashes are associated with Alzheimer’s disease biomarkers.

Recent advances in assessing Alzheimer’s disease include the development of Alzheimer’s disease blood-based biomarkers, which have proven especially useful for assessing risk decades before the emergence of Alzheimer’s disease dementia. These biomarkers were used as part of a new study involving nearly 250 midlife women. The objective of the study was to determine whether objectively assessed hot flashes are associated with adverse Alzheimer’s disease biomarker profiles.

Based on the results of the study, researchers concluded that hot flashes experienced during sleep may be a marker of women at risk of Alzheimer’s disease dementia. Further, a greater number of sleep hot flashes were associated with an increased likelihood of Alzheimer’s disease. 

These findings remained significant after additional adjustments for estradiol and actigraphy-assessed sleep characteristics. Hot flashes were measured objectively by using ambulatory skin conductance monitoring.

“Among other things, these findings indicate that women who experience frequent hot flashes, particularly during sleep, may warrant AD dementia risk reduction efforts,” says Rebecca Thurston, PhD, director of women’s biobehavioral health at the University of Pittsburgh Department of Psychiatry, in a release. 

Study results will be presented at this year’s Annual Meeting of The Menopause Society as part of the presentation entitled “Menopausal Vasomotor Symptoms and Plasma Alzheimer’s Disease Biomarkers.”

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