February 25, 2011

Early Menopause Symptoms Could Mean Good Heart Health

Experiencing hot flashes and night sweats early on in menopause could be a good thing, according to a new study published Thursday in the journal Menopause.

Researchers from the Brigham and Women's Hospital and Northwestern University reviewed medical information from 60,000 women who were enrolled in a health study for a period of 10 years, according to a February 24 press release.

They discovered that those who experienced these types of symptoms when they began menopause were less likely to suffer from a heart attack, stroke, or similar cardiovascular event than those who either experienced hot flashes later in menopause or did not experience them at all.

"While they are certainly bothersome, hot flashes may not be all bad," lead author Emily Szmuilowicz, an endocrinologist at Northwestern University, said in a statement.

"Our research found that despite previous reports suggesting that menopause symptoms were associated with increased levels of risk markers for heart disease, such as blood pressure and cholesterol, the actual outcomes tell a different story," she added.

Each of the subjects, who were participants in the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute's (NHLBI) Women's Health Initiative Observational Study, were grouped into four categories by the researchers. The first group consisted of women who experienced hot flashes and night sweats at the onset of menopause. The second experienced them later in menopause, while the third had them during both time periods and the fourth did not have hot flashes or night sweats at all.

According to AP Medical Writer Lindsey Tanner, "About 2.5 percent of women with early symptoms had heart attacks, compared with 3.4 percent of women with no symptoms and 5.5 percent of those with late symptoms. Also, about 6 percent of the early symptom women died, versus 11 percent of the late symptom group and 8 percent of the symptomless women. Women who had persistent hot flashes throughout menopause had risks similar to those without symptoms."

Approximately one-third of the study participants had early symptoms, while less than 1,400 had late symptoms, Tanner added.

Furthermore, Dr. Elsa-Grace Giardina, a Columbia University women's heart disease specialist who was not involved in the study, told the AP that the research had severe limitations and that heart disease risk factors such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes and obesity were all more common in the late symptom study participants.


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