Hot Flashes May Signal Fracture Risk

Menopause hot flashes and night sweats tied to hip fractures in women

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) Hot flashes and night sweats could be more than just unpleasant symptoms of menopause — they could be tied to bone health.

A new study found that women experiencing menopause symptoms may have a raised risk of hip fractures.

The authors of this new study, led by Carolyn J. Crandall, MD, of the David Geffen School of Medicine at the University of California, Los Angeles, said raised awareness of possible health risks tied to menopause symptoms could help women prevent some health problems.

"Improved understanding would help clinicians advise women on how to better prevent osteoporosis and other bone conditions," Dr. Crandall said in a news release. "Women who have hot flashes and want to protect their bones may benefit from healthy lifestyle habits such as avoiding smoking and excessive alcohol consumption, exercising and getting sufficient calcium and vitamin D."

In menopause, which usually occurs when women are in their 40s or 50s, the body undergoes hormonal changes resulting in the end of both menstrual periods and the ability to become pregnant.

According to the Cleveland Clinic, the hormonal changes during this time can put postmenopausal women at a greater risk for certain health conditions, such as osteoporosis, a condition which causes weakening of the bones. Common menopause symptoms include hot flashes and night sweats.

Dr. Crandall and team used data from the 1993 to 2005 Women’s Health Initiative Clinical Trial (WHI). The WHI program involved 23,573 patients from 40 health centers across the US.

The women were between ages 50 and 79. Researchers followed them for an average of 8.2 years.

Menopausal symptoms and incidence of fractures were recorded at the study's outset and at yearly visits. Bone mineral density tests to measure the health of the patients' bones were performed in 4,867 patients.

A total of 10 percent of the study patients reported moderate to severe hot flashes and/or night sweats.

After analyzing the data, Dr. Crandall and team found that these women with moderate to severe night sweats and hot flashes had a greater risk for hip fracture than women who did not report symptoms.

The women with worse symptoms were also more likely to have lower bone mineral density in the neck and spine. However, no ties were seen between menopausal symptoms and fractures of the vertebrae.

"In my clinical experience, giving women magnesium actually diminishes their hot flashes and night sweats," said Carolyn Dean, MD, ND, Medical Advisory Board Member of the non-profit Nutritional Magnesium Association. "So, I would theorize that the 10 percent of study patients who reported moderate to severe hot flashes and/or night sweats likely suffered magnesium deficiency and that condition led them to have a higher rate of fractures.

"Along with a good diet, exercise, avoidance of alcohol, coffee and cigarettes, a proper balance of magnesium from supplements, calcium from the diet, vitamin D and vitamin K2 from fermented cod liver oil and butter oil provide the most effective treatment for osteopenia and osteoporosis," Dr. Dean said.

Bone density tests were not available for all participants and further research is needed to better understand the possible relationship between menopausal symptoms and health of the bones, the researchers noted.

This study was published Dec. 18 in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism.

The WHI program received funding from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. Two study authors reported ties to pharmaceutical groups, such as Merck and Bristol-Myers Squibb. One study author is the co-founder of a company developing technology to determine bone fracture risk.

Review Date: 
December 18, 2014
Last Updated:
January 6, 2015