As many menopausal women know all too well, hot flashes can seriously impact their quality of life. A new study from the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine has found that frequent hot flashes in younger midlife (age 40 to 53) may also signal emerging vascular dysfunction that can lead to heart disease.
The study, which involved 272 nonsmoking women aged 40 to 60 years, tested the relationship between physiologically assessed hot flashes and endothelial (the inner lining of the blood vessels) function using a measure of vascular health called brachial artery flow-mediated dilation. While there was no association between hot flashes and vascular health found among older women, poorer endothelial function was found in the younger participants, indicating that early hot flashes may be those most relevant to heart disease risk. Acknowledged limitations of the study include a lack of data from early perimenopausal women or from women in racial/ethnic minority groups.
“These findings point to the potential value in considering the role of not only hormones, but also hot flashes, in the cardiovascular changes that occur early in the menopause transition, while also underscoring the potential role that the endothelium may play in the physiology of early hot flashes,” concluded Rebecca Thurston, PhD.