The AP (2/25, Tanner) reports that, according to a study published online Feb. 24 in the journal Menopause, "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." But, "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."
For the study, "researchers analyzed data from 60,000 post-menopausal women who were part of the Women's Health Initiative Observational Study," the Los Angeles Times (2/23, Roan) "Booster Shots" blog reported. They found that "women who had hot flashes or night sweats at the start of menopause were actually at a slightly lower risk for stroke, heart disease and death, compared with women who never had hot flashes or night sweats. The risk reductions were 17% for stroke, 11% for heart disease and 11% death."
As to why hot flashes during the start of menopause lowered the risk for heart attack, according to the Time (2/24, Park) "Healthland" blog, "what may be happening," the study's co-author explained, "is that women who experience flushing during menopause could have blood vessels that are responding appropriately to the change in hormone levels occurring at that time, helping them to ward off the hardening of the arteries and plaque-building associated with heart disease." However, "further studies need to confirm whether that's the case."
The CNN (2/24, Landau) "The Chart" blog reported, "Dr. Rita Redberg, cardiologist at the University of California-San Francisco, and spokeswoman for the American Heart Association, said it's unlikely that hot flashes themselves are protective; her theory is that women are more likely to exercise or go to their doctors more regularly because of hot flashes, and those practices can decrease cardiovascular events." WebMD (2/24, Mann), Reuters (2/25), and the UK's Press Association (2/25) also covered the story.
Posted by Steven Almany M.D.