AARP Eye Center
Hot flashes may be more than an annoying symptom of menopause. The waves of intense heat and flushed cheeks could be a warning sign of health problems down the road, according to new research.
A study released at the North American Menopause Society's (NAMS) annual meeting this week found that women who experience frequent and persistent hot flashes may be at greater risk for heart attack, stroke and other cardiovascular disease conditions later in life.
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The 20-year study followed more than 3,000 women and found that participants who experienced frequent hot flashes earlier in menopause were twice as likely to develop cardiovascular disease events. In addition, those who reported more persistent hot flashes over the course of the transition were associated with an 80 percent increased risk for cardiovascular disease events.
Rebecca Thurston, lead author on the study, called the magnitude of the increased risks “substantial,” but doesn't want the results to scare women. Rather, she sees the research as a call to action for women in their 40s and 50s to work on minimizing their risks for cardiovascular disease.
"What we do know, likely at a minimum, is that the [hot flashes] are telling us something about the health of women's cardiovascular systems, and that really they need to be engaging in positive health behaviors,” said Thurston, a professor of psychiatry, psychology and epidemiology at the University of Pittsburgh.
"So often during midlife, in particular, women are juggling a lot of different things — whether it's children, aging parents, work. They're not prioritizing their own health."