Early menopausal symptoms may predict heart disease

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New York, Sep 29. 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.

Early menopausal symptoms may predict heart disease
Early menopausal symptoms

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.

Acupuncture may help reduce the severity of hot flashes — a typical symptom of menopause — in nearly 50 per cent of women, a study has found.

Acupuncture is a system of alternative medicine in which fine needles are inserted in the skin at specific points along what are considered to be lines of energy (meridians), used in the treatment of various physical and mental conditions.

“Women bothered by hot flashes and night sweats may want to give acupuncture a try as a relatively low-cost, low-risk treatment,” said lead author Nancy Avis, Professor at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center in North Carolina, US.

For the study, the team included 209 perimenopausal and postmenopausal women aged between 45 to 60 who had on average at least four hot flashes or night sweats per day.

These women were further randomised to receive up to 20 acupuncture treatments within six months or to a control group.

“Women who had a reduction in their hot flashes saw a benefit beginning after about three to four weeks of weekly treatments,” Avis added.

Of the 170 women who received acupuncture, a small group of women (11.9 per cent) had an 85 per cent reduction in hot flashes by the eighth week of the study, Avis said.

Forty-seven per cent of the study group reported a 47 per cent reduction over this same time frame.

However, 37 per cent showed only a minimal reduction of 9.6 per cent in frequency of hot flashes, while 4 per cent reported a 100 per cent increase in hot flashes, the researchers concluded in the paper published in the journal Menopause.