Fitness Friday: Soy Foods Protect The Heart and Prevent Hot Flashes

Although 80% of women going through menopause will have a hot flash, it has still been shown that hot flashes can be a risk factor for Cardiovascular Disease. We can best help your heart if you have protection against hot flashes. For some women it is making a decision to eat better, for some exercise more, for some bioidentical hormone use, and for some women other kinds of unique menopausal medication management. We at Women's Health Practice are also enrolling a trial that is hoping to develop a novel treatment for hot flashes, Call 217-356-3736 to see if you would like to enroll.

Diets high in soy protein are very heart healthy. Women have been wondering, how do we eat to control hot flashes, and soy may be the answer as well, particularly early in the menopausal transition when women are just having a few hot flashes. Soy protein heart protection is not really through much change in actual cholesterol levels. Women who have soy protein diets will not build up as much plaque blockage in their arteries if that diet is consumed early in life when plaque build up is not yet advanced. It's not just using diet to treat hot flashes, it's about using diet to prevent the hot flashes to begin with. Diet calories, the composition of that diet, your overall nutritional health, and your hormonal state all factor into whether you are going to have moderate or severe hot flashes, and whether you will have mild or severe plaque build up. For some women this is merely adjusting her diet to be a bit less bothered; for other women eating right to control hot flashes can be a matter of significant health consequences.

The Newest data released in October of 2012 from the Women's Health Initiative gives clues as to how diet affects your hot flashes. The diet can affect how you work with a hot flash that is occurring now, as well as the overall numbers of hot flashes you will have in the future. Gyno's have always recommended cooling water, and generally to be well hydrated when you are having hot flashes. Water to your diet is always good, and that is one way we should feed our hot flashes. Other gynos have recommended adding soy to the diet, but high soy intake has not consistently proven successful as a preventative hot flash treatment.

Hot flashes can lead to highter blood pressures, more weight gain, more central weight gain (bigger tummy), and thicker blood vessel walls and more calcification of those blood vessel walls which could lead to clogged vessels and blood clots. Dr. Thurston and her colleagues have reported in another analysis of their NIH study of menopausal women, the SWAN study, that women with hot flashes have more heart disease. In fact this new study says that the more you flash the worse your blood lipids like cholesterol are.

In fact women with hot flashes have worse triglycerides, and worse bad cholesterol (LDL cholesterol), probably worse lipoprotein fractions, as well as other markers of heart disease. In the new information of October 2012 the WHI tried to control the hot flashes of over 17,000 post menopausal women, not on hormones. The WHI researchers looked at whether a diet that was high in good nutrients like fruit, vegetables, and fiber would reduce hot flashes alone. What they found in their study, was that weight loss was more effective, regardless of the specifics of the diet. Heavier weight has always been linked to worse hot flashes. I like to liken it to wearing a (fake) fur coat all the time. We are literally insulated if we have excess fat, and that will make heat regulation falter. So a new piece of nutrition advice for those with hot flashes is to watch your fat intake and try to actually lose weight! What I found interesting is that how many hot flashes predicted these cholesterol tests better than knowing a woman's estrogen level! Why this could be is puzzling the researchers. We need to take the next step forward and understand that lots of hot flashes are tied in with why having plaque build up in our hearts is not physiologically beneficial to us, and we have to take steps to make sure they are properly under control. While controlling our hot flashes we can be protecting the heart.


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