Review on March 11, 2009
As a large percentage of 45 - 55-year-old women know, hot flashes are a common annoyance of menopause, and for women who suffer severe hot flashes, they can be nearly debilitating. For women who have put menopause behind them, who are generally 55 years and older, but continue to experience the sudden flushing of the skin around the neck and face, the latter-day hot flashes could be indicative of a far more serious condition.
Several large studies released in March of 2009 point to hot flashes lasting well into post-menopause as a correlative factor for women who suffer from high blood pressure and arteries clogged by cholesterol or calcium. These women with their lingering hot flashes had a much higher incidence of these cardio complications than their hot flash-free counterparts of the same twilight age. The study did not, however, conclude that hot flashes cause these heart conditions, and scientists do not yet understand the connection between hot flashes and heart issues.
Because lasting hot flashes are not the culprits to point to, doctors are clear that typical menopause-symptom treatments, such as estrogen treatment, will not solve the heart problems. In fact, it's very possible that additional estrogen later in life could actually act to clog or otherwise alter arteries that are already at risk.
Yet, for many reasons, doctors are looking to exercise as one of the best ways to curb both hot flashes and heart troubles. A recent study broke 164 women in their 50s up, all experiencing hot flashes, into three groups of varying exercise groups: walkers, yoga-doers, and sloth-like non-exercisers. The study lasted four months, and by the end, "We found a significant association between changes in cardiorespiratory fitness and changes in menopausal symptoms [such as hot flashes]," said Penn State kinesiologist Steriani Elavsky, who conducted the study. "Women who experienced decreases in menopausal symptoms in the study also experienced improvements in all positive mental health and quality-of-life outcomes.