Several of my friends who are going through menopause have complained to me about hot flashes. They dislike the sensations brought on by the hot flash and worry that the hot flash may be harming their health. Two new studies provide some important insight on the implications of hot flashes as well as how women can lessen that sudden hot feeling.
The first study, which is out of Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago, found that most women entering menopause who experience hot flashes don’t appear to be facing poorer heart health. However, there are a few exceptions, researchers noted. They pointed to women who experience hot flashes for many years after the onset of menopause or whose hot flashes began many years after the woman has gone through the menopause transition. The researchers’ analysis found that these two groups of women are at risk for cardiovascular issues.
This study, which was being presented at the annual meeting of Endocrine Society, was a follow-up to the Women’s Health Initiative Study, a large longitudinal study on postmenopausal women. The researchers examined data from nearly 60,000 postmenopausal women who averaged 64 years of age. They were asked about hot flashes, including when the flashes began and how many years they’ve had the flashes. The researchers found that women who reported hot flashes during the onset of menopause were not more likely to have certain markers such as blood-pressure levels and white-blood-cell counts, that are associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease.
However, MedLine Plus reported that women whose hot flashes started an average of 14 years after menopause as well as women who had hot flashes during menopause and for many years following the transition had higher blood-pressure readings and higher counts of white blood cells. Women who had persistent hot flashes also had higher blood glucose and insulin levels, which are indicators of the potential for diabetes. The researchers did not find an association between diabetes risk factors and the women in the other hot-flash groups.
In another study, researchers out of Penn State found that physical activity may reduce hot flashes during the following 24-hour period. Furthermore, this study looked at objective hot flashes and subjective hot flashes. “Experts say that perceived hot flashes do not always correspond to actual hot flashes,” PsychCentral.com senior news editor Dr. Rick Nauert wrote. “This factor has limited extrapolation of prior research findings as earlier studies analyzed only self-reported hot flashes.
In this study, the researchers followed 92 menopausal women with mild to moderate symptoms for a 15-day period. These women were grouped into groups for normal weight and overweight/obese categories as well as higher fit and lower fit categories. The women were asked to wear devices that monitored their activity as well as another device that measured when the woman had a physical hot flash. Each woman also was asked to chart hot flashes on a personal digital assistant during the study period. Therefore, the scientists could review objective hot flashes when they were recorded on the monitor while the subjective hot flashes were listed in the PDA. The researchers considered a “true positive” hot flash to be when an objective and subjective hot flash were recorded within a five-minute period.