Early menopause is more than annoying

(Credit: Getty Images)

Women who experience hot flashes and night sweats earlier in life are more likely to die from cardiovascular disease than women with later-onset menopausal symptoms, a new study finds.

Up to 80 percent of women experience menopausal symptoms, particularly hot flashes and night sweats, at some point during the menopause transition.

“We used to think these were annoying symptoms that persist for several years around the final menstrual period and simply affect the quality of life for many women,” says Rebecca Thurston. “However, we now know that these symptoms persist far longer and often start earlier than we previously thought.

“Our research also suggests that for some women, particularly for younger midlife women, menopausal symptoms might mark adverse changes in the blood vessels during midlife that place them at increased risk for heart disease.”

4 kinds of hot flash: Which is yours?

Published in the journal, Menopause, the findings indicate that early onset of menopausal symptoms is associated with dysfunction of the endothelium, which is the lining of blood vessels. Endothelial dysfunction was measured by assessing flow-mediated dilation (FMD), a noninvasive ultrasound measure of how well the vessel dilates in response to pressure on the wall of the blood vessel.

Thurston and colleagues investigated associations between menopausal symptoms and risk for CVD complications among postmenopausal women participating in the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute Women’s Ischemia Syndrome Evaluation study.

A total of 254 postmenopausal women with signs and symptoms of ischemic heart disease were evaluated, and researchers found those who had hot flashes before age 42 to be more likely to have lower FMD, suggesting adverse endothelial changes, as well as higher mortality from heart disease.

“While more work needs to be done to confirm our findings, our research could, one day, help us predict the midlife women who might be at increased risk for cardiovascular disease so that we proactively target these women for early prevention strategies,” Thurston says.

Source: University of Pittsburgh