Menopause's Mixed Signals

When symptoms begin may influence heart health

Some women's first signs of menopause are hot flashes and night sweats. While miserable to endure, they may be an early indication of a lowered risk of heart disease.
A recent study reassures women that the early onset of these symptoms may actually be a good thing.  But, this research also highlights health concerns for women who get these symptoms late in their menopausal experience.
Hot flashes and night sweats in early menopause––gifts in disguise.
JoAnn Manson of Brigham and Women's Hospital commented that these symptoms in the early days of menopause do not indicate that a woman is at an increased risk of stroke or heart attack. In fact, it may be just the opposite. Women who experience hot flashes and night sweats in the early stages of perimenopause may even receive protection against future heart disease.
Later in menopause, however, hot flashes and night sweats may indicate an increased risk.
The Study
Researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital:
  • re-analyzed data gather from the Women's Health Initiative in 2002 (the same study that concluded hormone replacement therapy (HRT) raised a woman's risk of breast, ovarian cancer and strokes) 
  • discovered that women with early hot flashes and night sweats had a 17 percent lower risk of stroke; an 11 percent lower risk of heart disease; and an 11 percent lower risk of death during the study
  • found that women with hot flashes or night sweats later in menopause had a 32 percent higher risk of heart attack and 29 percent higher risk of death
  • determined that three out of four menopausal women experience hot flashes or night sweats early in menopause 
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Review Date: 
April 15, 2011