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Hot flashes & night sweats are early sign of increased risk for vascular dementia, but...

Updated: Oct 21

Acupuncture can reduce vasomotor symptoms (hot flashes, night sweats) associated with increased risk of vascular dementia and cerebrovascular causes of cognitive disease.


Based on clinical evidence, we believe you should incorporate acupuncture to reduce your risks of dementia and related cerebrovascular disease.


A painting of a middle-aged woman with an uncomfortable facial expression representing her experiencing hot flashes and discomfort.
Approximately 70% of women experience vasomotor symptoms during the menopausal transition, with symptoms lasting for 7 to 10 years on average.

There is an increased risk of cognitive disease associated with frequent vasomotor symptoms (VMS) during the menopausal transition (Thurston et al., 2022).


Vasomotor symptoms (VMS) are a common occurrence during the menopausal transition and can include night-time hot flashes and night sweats. VMS have been recently been linked to an increased risk of cognitive decline and dementia in older women as research progresses. In addition, more studies are linking frequent hot flashes or night sweats to cardiovascular (CV) disease. Hormone therapy is by far the most effective treatment but it has become less readily prescribed because of observed long-term risks, such as "the risk of cardiovascular disease, endometrial hyperplasia, stroke, venous thromboembolism, and gallbladder disease" (Guo et al., 2019).


As the article above reported, the link between hot flashes/night sweats and an increased number of white matter brain lesions, which are correlated to cognitive disease, has been recently observed. White matter lesions are caused by chronic under-supply of blood-flow to the brain (Ma et al., 2020). The association between vasomotor symptoms and cardiovascular and cognitive disease is not fully understood, but it is thought that the increased risks may be due to changes in hormone levels during menopause, leading to chronic cerebral hypoperfusion (CCH), or poor blood flow to the brain. Ample evidence suggests that CCH is a leading pathophysiological mechanism of white matter lesions in vascular dementia.


Acupuncture has repeatedly been shown to be effective at reducing the frequency and severity of VMS, especially compared to no treatment, in clinical trials (Guo et al., 2019; Nam et al., 2018). In looking at other acupuncture neuroscience research demonstrating that acupuncture stimulates neuroplasticity and encourages healthy peripheral and cerebrovascular circulation, it is our strong opinion that acupuncture treatment reduces the risk of cognitive decline and dementia associated with VMS (Ma et al., 2020). If you are experiencing VMS during or after menopause, consider incorporating acupuncture into your routine healthcare as a way to help reduce your symptoms and protect your long-term cognitive health.


The link between sleep-time hot flashes and night sweats and greater white matter hyperintensity volume in the brain


The link between sleep-time hot flashes/night sweats and white matter brain lesions has been recently observed. The association between vasomotor symptoms, like night-time hot flashes and cardiovascular disease is not fully understood, but it is thought that the increased risk may be due to changes in hormone levels during menopause, leading to chronic cerebral hypoperfusion (CCH), or poor blood flow to the brain. Ample evidence demonstrates that chronic cerebral hypoperfusion (CCH) is a leading cause of white matter lesions in vascular dementia, and increased white matter hyperintensity is already associated with cerebrovascular disease.


Acupuncture & herbal medicine can reduce symptoms associated with increased risks of cardiovascular and cognitive disease (Tang et al., 2022). Additionally, a number of studies have shown that acupuncture is effective in reducing hot flashes and night sweats in women with menopausal symptoms (Nam et al., 2018).


Studies have shown that acupuncture can reduce the cognitive deficits of individuals with vascular dementia (Su et al., 2021). In MRI studies, acupuncture ameliorated cognitive impairment, increased cerebral blood flow, reduce neuro-inflammation, and protected the myelin sheath integrity of neurons (Uchida & Kagitani, 2015, Du et al., 2022; Tang et al., 2022). These protective effects of acupuncture on white matter were significantly correlated with improved cerebral blood flow - acupuncture helps the body protect the brain.


These findings suggest that acupuncture may be an effective treatment for not only menopausal symptoms, but also may reduce the associated increased risk of cardiovascular disease, and cognitive decline. This is especially true is someone is not taking hormone therapy or is unable to, like breast cancer patients and survivors.


A semi-abstract painting of a beautiful middle-aged woman surrounded by flowers.
Whether it is hormone therapy, acupuncture, physical exercise, meditation, herbal medicine, or all of the above, we have tools to reduce the risk of aging and improve the quality of life.

The contraindications for hormone therapy in some women and the risks involved.

  1. Hormone therapy (HT) is not appropriate for all women and can involve risks, as we detailed above. Guo et al. noted in their 2019 summary review of complimentary therapies for vasomotor symptoms that, "Many studies successively found that long-term use of HT increased the risk of cardiovascular disease, endometrial hyperplasia, stroke, venous thromboembolism, and gallbladder disease."

  2. Acupuncture may be effective in reducing symptoms associated with increased risk of vasomotor symptoms which are linked to increased risk of cardiovascular and cognitive disease.

  3. Acupuncture therapies are generally safe and have few side effects.

  4. They may be used alone or in combination with other treatments, often improving outcomes when combined with other treatments.

  5. Individual results may vary, so it is important to consult with a qualified practitioner to determine the best course of treatment.

The evidence that acupuncture is effective in reducing the frequency and duration of hot flashes.

  1. Acupuncture has been shown to be effective in reducing the frequency and duration of hot flashes, especially compared to no treatment at all.

  2. These therapies can also help to reduce the symptoms associated with increased risk of cognitive disease, by improving cerebral blood flow and neuroplasticity.

  3. Acupuncture is a safe, natural, and non-drug approaches to managing hot flashes and other menopausal symptoms.

  4. These therapies can be used alone or in combination with other treatments, such as hormone therapy, to achieve optimal results.

  5. Acupuncture is part of a comprehensive approach to menopausal care that can provide significant relief from hot flashes and other troublesome symptoms.

Our goal at Abundant Heaven Integrative Acupuncture is to support our patients' long-term health, not just fix symptoms or minor issues.


If you are experiencing discomfort with nightly hot-flashes and night sweats, or are generally concerned about your risk for heart and brain disease in the long-term, please reach out to us and find out how we can help you. We work with patients on a very personal level and can help integrate acupuncture into your larger healthcare regimen.





 
References:

D'Ambrosio, A. (2022, October 16). Could Hot Flashes and Night Sweats Serve as Early Signs of Poor Brain Health? MedPage Today. Retrieved October 20, 2022, from https://www.medpagetoday.com/meetingcoverage/nams/101245


Du, K., Yang, S., Wang, J., & Zhu, G. (2022). Acupuncture Interventions for Alzheimer’s Disease and Vascular Cognitive Disorders: A Review of Mechanisms. Oxidative Medicine and Cellular Longevity, 2022, 1–18. https://doi.org/10.1155/2022/6080282

Guo, P.-P., Li, P., Zhang, X.-H., Liu, N., Wang, J., Chen, D.-D., Sun, W.-J., & Zhang, W. (2019). Complementary and alternative medicine for natural and treatment-induced vasomotor symptoms: An overview of systematic reviews and meta-analyses. Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice, 36, 181–194. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ctcp.2019.07.007

Ji, S., Duan, J., Hou, X., Zhou, L., Qin, W., Niu, H., Luo, S., Zhang, Y., Chan, P., & Jin, X. (2021). The Role of Acupuncture Improving Cognitive Deficits due to Alzheimer’s Disease or Vascular Diseases through Regulating Neuroplasticity. Neural Plasticity, 2021, 1–16. https://doi.org/10.1155/2021/8868447 Ma, S.-M., Wang, L., Su, X.-T., Yang, N.-N., Huang, J., Lin, L.-L., Shao, J.-K., Yang, J.-W., & Liu, C.-Z. (2020). Acupuncture Improves White Matter Perfusion and Integrity in Rat Model of Vascular Dementia: An MRI-Based Imaging Study. Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience, 12, 582904. https://doi.org/10.3389/fnagi.2020.582904

Nam, E.-Y., Park, J.-Y., Lee, J.-Y., Jo, J., & Kim, D.-I. (2018). Traditional acupuncture for menopausal hot flashes: A systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. European Journal of Integrative Medicine, 17, 119–128. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.eujim.2017.12.004

Su, X.-T., Sun, N., Zhang, N., Wang, L.-Q., Zou, X., Li, J.-L., Yang, J.-W., Shi, G.-X., & Liu, C.-Z. (2021). Effectiveness and Safety of Acupuncture for Vascular Cognitive Impairment: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience, 13, 692508. https://doi.org/10.3389/fnagi.2021.692508

Tang, E. C., Hung, C., Lo, S. H., Chau, J. P., Mok, V. C., & Lau, A. Y. (2022). Acupuncture on vascular cognitive impairment associated with cerebral small vessel disease: A systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized and non-randomized controlled trials. European Journal of Integrative Medicine, 49, 101403. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.eujim.2021.101403

Thurston, R. C., Wu, M., Chang, Y.-F., Aizenstein, H. J., Derby, C. A., Barinas-Mitchell, E. A., & Maki, P. (2022). Menopausal Vasomotor Symptoms and White Matter Hyperintensities in Midlife Women. Neurology, 10.1212/WNL.0000000000201401. https://doi.org/10.1212/WNL.0000000000201401

Uchida, S., & Kagitani, F. (2015). Effect of acupuncture-like stimulation on cortical cerebral blood flow in aged rats. The Journal of Physiological Sciences, 65(1), 67–75. https://doi.org/10.1007/s12576-014-0340-9

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