CHICAGO – Hot flashes that bedevil many women in menopause might actually be a good thing, depending on when they strike, according to new data from a long-running government study.
Women who had hot flashes at the start of menopause but not later seemed to have a lower risk for heart attack and death than women who never had hot flashes, or those whose symptoms persisted long after menopause began.
By contrast, among the few women who developed hot flashes late – in some cases many years after menopause began – there were more heart attacks and deaths when compared with the other groups.
The research involved more than 60,000 women followed for an average of almost 10 years. It’s the first to examine timing of menopausal symptoms and subsequent risks for heart problems and deaths, said co-author Dr. JoAnn Manson, chief of preventive medicine at Harvard’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital.
Recent studies linked hot flashes with higher blood pressure and cholesterol levels, which could suggest a higher risk for heart problems, but the new research offers a more detailed look, Manson said.
Lead author Dr. Emily Szmuilowicz, an endocrinologist with Northwestern University’s medical school, said the results should reassure millions of women who experience hot flashes or night sweats, which are essentially hot flashes that can be bothersome enough to awaken women.
The results suggest “there may be a positive side” to having these annoying symptoms, Szmuilowicz said.
The study was released online Thursday in the journal Menopause.