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The Good News about Menopausal Hot Flashes

Anyone who has ever had a severe hot flash, especially in public, might struggle to believe that there can be any upside to these incapacitating waves of heat.

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But believe it or not, there is good news! Researchers have actually found a correlation between women who experience hot flashes in early menopause and certain health benefits. This study is made in comparison however, to women who have hot flashes in late menopause and women who don't suffer from hot flashes at all.

What's the Good News?

One study has found that early hot flashes, that do not last the entirety of menopause, are linked to a reduced risk of heart attacks. Conversely, it was also found that women who experienced hot flashes in the later phases of menopause, can actually be at a higher risk of suffering from heart attacks.

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Also, research has found a relationship between hot flashes and a reduced risk of breast cancer. This applied to all women between the ages of 55 and 74 regardless of the timing of their symptoms. Though it has not been proven, it is suspected that the reasoning may have something to do with estrogen levels, as women experiencing menopausal symptoms tend to have lower levels of estrogen.

What's the Relationship?

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This information is fairly new, and unfortunately, the study reported by the Journal of Menopause was unable to explain specifically why the relationship between hot flashes and a lower risk of heart disease actually exists. They only said that more research is needed. It is also worth remembering that these health benefits were only detected in women who experienced their hot flashes very early and then had none later on.

The researchers did not find this relationship in women who experienced hot flashes during later stages of menopause. Even though hot flashes are not well understood, they are thought to be the result of hormone fluctuations triggering the dilation of blood vessels. This in turn could be linked to hot flashes having a positive effect on the heart.

More Information

Talk to your doctor about the news available about the correlation between menopausal symptoms like hot flashes and the risk of cancer and heart problems. This information could help you make a decision about the risks and rewards of using hormone replacement therapy (HRT) and forms of treatment for hot flashes.

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Sources:
  • Sikon, Andrea and Holly Thacker M.D. "Treatment for Menopausal Hot Flashes". Cleveland Clinic Journal of Medicine. July 2004: 71 (7).
  • "Hot flashes ... in January". Canadian Medical Association Journal. 2004: 170 (1).
  • Miller, Heather and Rose Maria Li, M.D. "Measuring Hot Flashes: Summary of a National Institutes of Health Workshop". Conference report. Mayo Clinic. June 2004: 79.