Hot flashes, sometimes referred to as hot flushes, and night sweats are uncomfortable and annoying to many women going through the menopause, but these intense menopausal symptoms may actually have a health advantage, says a new US study.
According to the study, published in the online edition of ‘Menopause,’ hot flashes at the onset of menopause may be linked to a reduced risk of having a heart attack or stroke.
Menopausal symptoms have a silver liningThe study suggests that those worst affected at the start of the menopause actually have a lower risk of suffering heart attacks, stroke, and even death years after the change.
“While they are certainly bothersome, hot flashes may not be all bad,” says Dr Emily Szmuilowicz, from Northwestern Memorial Hospital, in Chicago, who is the paper’s lead author.
Hot flashes, the most common menopausal symptoms, occur suddenly, lasting about four minutes on average, and produce an uncomfortable feeling of intense heat.
Study detailsTo reach their findings, researchers analyzed data on 60,000 women with an average age of 63 who were enrolled in the Women’s Health Observational Study for 10 years.
They then divided the women into four categories–women who experienced hot flashes and night sweats at the onset of menopause, later in menopause, during both time periods and not at all.
Study findingsAfter a ten-year investigation of menopausal symptoms and heart and artery problems, the researchers found that women who had their worst hot flashes and night sweats around the time of menopause had an 11 percent lower risk of having a heart-related health problem and an 8 percent lower risk of dying from any cause, compared with women who reported no menopausal symptoms over the study period.
“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,” the Daily Mail quoted Szmuilowicz as saying.
Hot flashes likely be more tolerable nowEarlier research had linked menopausal symptoms to some of the strongest heart disease risk factors such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol and increased hardening of their arteries.
In response, Dr Szmuilowicz said: “While they are certainly bothersome, hot flashes may not be all bad.
“Our research found that despite previous reports suggesting that menopause symptoms were associated with increased levels of risk markers for heart disease, the actual outcomes tell a different story.
“It is reassuring that these symptoms, which are experienced by so many women, do not seem to correlate with increased risk of cardiovascular disease. Hot flashes will never be enjoyable, but perhaps these findings will make them more tolerable.”
About menopause and hot flashesA hot flash, sometimes called a hot flush, is mostly caused by the hormonal changes of menopause, which is that phase of a women’s life that affects not only her social life but also how she thinks about her own self.
Considered as a step in the process of aging, menopause is the term used in medical language for the end of menstrual cycle. it happens between 45 to 60 years of age when the ovaries stop producing the hormone, estrogen. This can also happen if the ovaries stop functioning for any other reason or have been removed surgically.
Hot flash is a momentary sensation of heat, lasting from about 30 seconds to a few minutes, that may be accompanied by a red, flushed face and sweating.
Hot flashes accompanied with excess sweating can also occur at night. These are called night sweats and may interfere with sleep.