US researchers have found that women who have hot flashes at the onset of menopause
are at a reduced risk of having heart attacks or stroke later in life. However women
who experienced hot flashes in late menopause were at greater risk of
developing cardiovascular diseases and death.
Lead author of the study and endocrinologist at Northwestern Memorial
Hospital in Chicago, Dr. Emily Szmuilowicz said, "While they are certainly
bothersome, hot flashes may not be all bad. We found that women who experienced
symptoms when they began menopause had fewer cardiovascular events than those
who experienced hot flashes late in menopause, or not at all."
In order to determine the relationship between menopause symptoms and
vascular diseases researchers enrolled over 60,000 women with an average age of
63-years in the Women's Health Observational Study for 10 years. These women
were grouped into 4categories- women who had hot flashes at the onset of menopause,
later in menopause, during both time periods and no symptoms at all. It was
found that women with early hot flashes and night sweats had a 17% lower risk
of stroke and 11 % lower risk of heart diseases and 11% lower risk of death
during the study period from any cause. While those who developed hot flashes
or night sweats in late menopause had a 32% higher risk of heart attack and 29%
higher risk of death.
It is unclear why hot flashes at the onset of menopause are linked to a lower
risk of cardiovascular diseases. Authors have said, "One possibility is
that peri menopausal vasomotor symptoms represent a physiologic response to the
normal peri menopausal hormonal fluctuations, and the absence of these symptoms
may signify a blunted vascular response to these hormonal changes."
Scientists have expressed the need for further research in this regard. The authors
added, "The study is limited by the retrospective self-reporting of symptoms,
and some of the women may have been taking hormone replacement therapy (HRT),
which may mask the symptoms and is also linked to a greater cardiovascular risk
for women over 70."