A new research from the University of Pittsburgh reports that there might be more than just feeling annoyed when hot flashes, and accompanying similar symptoms, are experienced by women as they transition into menopause. If these symptoms occur in a 42-year-old or younger woman, then they can serve as a warning for an increased likelihood of cardiovascular disease causing death.
The current research was published in the journal Menopause. Rebecca Thurston led the observational study. She is a professor of psychiatry at Pitt’s School of Medicine. The team of researchers included experts from all over the country, including Pitt and Allegheny General Hospital. The link present between vasomotor symptoms (hot flashes, flushes and night sweats) and the risk for heart disease was studied by the team. Data from a total of 254 postmenopausal women was observed. These women had participated in the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute’s study known as the Women’s Ischemia Syndrome Evaluation or WISE.
Though the WISE was considered to be an impressive study during its time back in 1998, according to statistician B. Delia Johnson, Pitt Graduate School of Public Health, it wasn’t able to represent the average group of females. All of these women were not healthy as their symptoms had led them to undergo angiograms. Johnson took out factors that might have played a role in affecting the outcome. These factors included the demographic and the traditional cardiovascular risk factors. Johnson took out these factors in order to observe the possible link present between cardiovascular health and symptoms of menopause.
Some sings of ischemic heart disease (an inadequate supply of blood to organs) were shown by all women. The number of women who had started to show early vasomotor symptoms was compared to females who had reported the same symptoms at or after the age of 42 as well as to the women who had not reported any such symptoms. The results of the study showed that women who experienced early symptoms had a higher rate of death due to heart disease and more dysfunction in their blood vessel lining.
An ultrasound was used to measure the dysfunction present in the endothelium. The ultrasound showed how well an artery present in the lower arm was able to dilate due to the flow of blood putting pressure on the blood vessel’s wall. Within the study group, a sample of 104 women had taken this test.
Another recently conducted research that was considered for this study included data from an ongoing national study that consisted of multiethnic group of women who were all middle-aged, called the Study of Women’s Health Across the Nation or SWAN. The results from SWAN reported that a total of 80% women experience symptoms of menopause during some point. These symptoms start earlier and they also last a lot longer, even longer than 10 years, in numerous women. The experienced hot flashes were seen to have a link with risk factors for heart disease.
All of the women were older than 50 and still had their ovaries. They also weren’t taking any hormone therapy. About 82% of these women were non-Hispanic white, 56% had coronary artery disease, 37% had a BMI that was more than 30, and 33% suffered from diabetes. Only 93 from the total of 254 women never had symptoms, while 40 women showed symptoms before they turned 42 years old. About 121 women reported that their symptoms began after the age of 42. Women who reported early symptoms were seen to have higher BMI’s compared to women whose symptom on-set was late.
For six years, all of the women were annually followed up for nonfatal and fatal cardiovascular events. The National Death Index was checked for any deaths that might have occurred, up to nine years later. The follow up revealed that 56 women had died because of cardiovascular disease, while at least one heart-disease event was experienced by 40 women. Though these 40 women had nonfatal events (congestive heart failure, heart attack or stroke), 16 of them eventually lose their lives due to heart disease.
The results showed that women who experienced an early-onset of vasomotor symptoms had a much higher rate of death due to cardiovascular disease compared to women who reported a later-onset of symptoms. The mortality of women that didn’t experience any symptoms was placed between these two groups.
More research is needed in order to further understand the link present between early menopausal symptoms in women and risk of death due to heart related diseases. Further understanding of this phenomenon can help health care providers come up with strategies in order to aid women reduce their likelihood of death.