Science

Night sweats and hot flushes in menopause linked to poorer brain health – study

Researchers suggest their findings could help identify when early intervention could help.

Night sweats and hot flushes during menopause could be linked to poorer brain health, new research suggests.

The symptoms, collectively known as vasomotor symptoms (VMS), are associated with a higher number of brain lesions.

While the study of 206 women did not look at whether they went on to have memory and thinking problems or dementia, researchers say their findings could help identify when early intervention could help.

Experts suggest menopause is increasingly recognised as a time of importance for women’s brain health.

A growing body of research indicates VMS may be associated with poorer cardiovascular health, while other work links the symptoms to poorer cognition.

In the new study, the women aged 45-67 and not on hormone therapy underwent 24 hours of physiological testing including sleep assessments and brain scans.

Writing in the Neurology journal, the researchers from the University of Pittsburgh, and colleagues, say: “Identification of female-specific midlife markers of poor brain health later in life is critical to identify women who warrant early intervention and prevention.

“VMS have the potential to serve as female-specific midlife markers of brain health in women.”

Dr Rosa Sancho, head of research at Alzheimer’s Research UK, said: “Dementia disproportionately affects women.

“While women can expect to live longer than men, this alone does not explain the difference in the numbers of people developing dementia and scientists have been delving deeper into the biological variations that could underlie this effect.

“In this study, researchers identified women who experience hot flushes and night sweats, collectively known as vasomotor symptoms, during the menopause were more likely to have a marker of poorer brain health.”

She added: “It’s unacceptable that despite dementia becoming the leading cause of death for UK women more than a decade ago, this situation remains unchanged today.

“Alzheimer’s Research UK is committed to ending the fear, harm and heartbreak of dementia for all.”