Severe Hot Flashes Linked to Heart Problem Risk

Despite cooling Autumn temperatures, many women in their menopausal years are still shedding layers and throwing off the bedcovers when hot flashes strike.  For some women, the unpleasant side effects of the menopause transition pass relatively quickly but for others, intense “power surges” can interrupt sleep, worsen irritability, and lead to a poorer quality of life.  A recent study has also found a link between persistent vasomotor symptoms and an increased risk for heart attack or stroke. 

According to a recent Everyday Health Menopause News report, research presented at the North American Menopause Society Annual Meeting shows a growing body of data supporting a connection between frequent or severe hot flashes and heart problems.  Menopausal women who have more vasomotor symptoms are also more likely to have heart problems including high cholesterol, high blood pressure and diabetes.  They are also at increased risk of atherosclerosis – fat buildup in the arteries that can block blood flow.

Although the research evidence shows a link between severe and frequent hot flashes and increased heart risk, it is unclear if treating these symptoms will improve heart outcomes.  Researchers recommend women who experience persistent and intense hot flashes talk with their healthcare provider about their menopausal symptoms and look at lifestyle changes like stopping smoking, eating a healthier diet, and getting regular exercise that may help.  Middle-aged adults should also get their cholesterol checked at least every five years, their blood pressure checked every two, and their blood sugar levels checked every three years, according to the American Heart Association. 

Overweight women who suffer from hot flashes may be able to reduce their symptoms by losing weight through diet and exercise.  Research from the University of California San Francisco found that women in an active weight loss group were twice as likely to see an improvement in their hot flashes after six months compared with women in the control group.