Early Menopause Symptoms Not Heart-Linked
Hot flashes or night sweats early in menopause are not linked to heart risk unless the symptoms persist or start long after menopause began, researchers say.
Lead researcher Dr. Emily Szmuilowicz, an assistant professor at Northwestern University's medical school in Chicago, said the study used retrospective data from nearly 60,000 post-menopausal women who participated in the Women's Health Initiative Observational Study.
The researchers grouped the women into four categories based on timing of their menopausal symptoms of hot flashes and night sweats -- only at the start of menopause, or early-onset menopausal symptoms; only years later in menopause, or late-onset menopausal symptoms; both time periods, or persistent menopausal symptoms; and no symptoms at all.
The investigators found no association between early-onset menopausal symptoms and increased levels of any cardiovascular risk markers. However, the study found both persistent and late-onset menopausal symptoms were associated with higher blood pressure and higher white blood cell count.
Persistent menopausal symptoms also correlated with higher levels of glucose and insulin, which are markers for diabetes, Szmuilowicz said.
It is unclear why women who experience menopausal symptoms at different stages of menopause might have differing levels of cardiovascular disease risk. Szmuilowicz speculated "if menopausal symptoms occur long after menopause begins, this may signal a blood vessel abnormality that could also affect cardiovascular health."
The findings were presented at The Endocrine Society's 94th annual meeting in Houston.