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Early Onset of Hot Flashes Associated With Blood Vessel Dysfunction, Could Predict Heart Disease

Study data to be presented at ACC meeting

New research on women who experience hot flashes, the link between excessive sitting and increased coronary artery calcification, and the use of antidepressants will be presented at the American College of Cardiology’s 64th Annual Scientific Session & Expo, to be held March 14–16 in San Diego, California.

According to two separate studies, women who experience hot flashes earlier in life appear to have poorer endothelial function compared with women who have hot flashes later in life or not at all.

In the first study, researchers enrolled 189 healthy peri- or post-menopausal women and examined the relationship between hot flashes and flow-mediated dilation. Results showed that more hot flashes over a 24-hour period were associated with significantly lower flow-mediated dilation and, therefore, poorer endothelial function in younger women, 52 years of age and younger. Further, having any number of hot flashes at a younger age was related to a 3% reduction in flow-mediated dilation compared with the younger women with no symptoms.

The second study confirmed these findings and evaluated 104 post-menopausal women with an average age of 67 years who were enrolled in the Women’s Ischemic Syndrome Evaluation study. That investigation found that women who had early-onset hot flashes had significantly lower flow-mediated dilation, suggesting poorer endothelial function compared with women whose symptoms started later.

According to Rebecca C. Thurston, PhD, lead author of both studies and associate professor of psychiatry, psychology, and epidemiology at the University of Pittsburgh, “The research suggests early-onset hot flashes may serve as a red flag to help identify women at greater cardiovascular risk who could benefit from more aggressive risk reduction early in midlife.”

Exploring the link between sedentary behavior and cardiovascular disease, a separate study analyzed heart scans and physical-activity records from more than 2,000 adults living in Dallas, Texas. The researchers found that each hour of sedentary time per day on average was associated with a 14% increase in the burden of coronary artery calcification. This association was independent of exercise activity and other traditional cardiovascular disease risk factors.

A separate study explored the use of antidepressants and their effects on cardiovascular disease. Researchers at the Intermountain Medical Center Heart Institute in Salt Lake City analyzed the health records and rates of death, coronary artery disease, and stroke among more than 26,000 patients treated in the statewide network of health centers during a 3-year period. Based on a depression screening questionnaire, researchers identified 5,311 patients as having moderate-to-severe depression and 21,517 patients as having no to mild depression.

The results showed that patients with moderate-to-severe depression who took antidepressants alone had a lower risk of death, coronary artery disease, and stroke than did patients with moderate-to-severe depression who did not take antidepressant or statin medications. Further, taking statins alone or in combination with antidepressants was not associated with a significant risk reduction in this group of patients.

“This study adds to the evidence that, when used properly, antidepressants can improve cardiovascular outcomes among those with depressive symptoms,” said lead author Heidi May, PhD, MSPH, a cardiovascular epidemiologist at the Intermountain Medical Center Heart Institute in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Source: ACC; March 5, 2015.

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