Early Menopausal Symptoms May Predict Heart Disease

Women who experience menopausal symptoms — hot flashes and night sweats — much earlier are more likely to die from cardiovascular disease (CVD) as compared to those with later onset of such symptoms, says research.

Up to 80 per cent of women experience menopausal symptoms at some point during the menopause transition, said Professor Rebecca Thurston from the University of Pittsburgh at Pennsylvania, in the US.

Previously it was thought that these symptoms that persist for several years around the final menstrual period simply affect the quality of life.

However, new research indicates that early onset of menopausal symptoms is associated with dysfunction of the endothelium — lining of blood vessels.

“Our research also suggests that for women in their midlife, menopausal symptoms might mark adverse changes in blood vessels during the period placing them at increased risk for heart disease,” Thurston added.
For the study, Thurston and her team investigated associations between menopausal symptoms and risk for CVD complications among 254 postmenopausal women with signs and symptoms of ischemic heart disease.

Endothelial dysfunction was measured by assessing flow-mediated dilation (FMD) — a non-invasive ultrasound measure of how well the vessel dilates in response to pressure on the wall of the blood vessel.

The researchers found those who had hot flashes before age 42 were more likely to have lower FMD, suggesting adverse endothelial changes, as well as higher mortality from heart disease.

“The research could, one day, help us predict those midlife women who might be at increased risk of cardiovascular disease so that we proactively target them for early prevention strategies,” Thurston said, in the paper published in the journal Menopause.