Tough Menopause May Signal Future Heart Woes
As if the misery of hot flashes, night sweats and sleep troubles weren't enough, now new research suggests that women who routinely experience moderate to severe menopausal symptoms have a higher risk of stroke and heart disease.
"This analysis assessed various menopausal symptoms and their association with health outcomes. Women with two or more moderate to severe menopausal symptoms had an increased risk of stroke and cardiovascular disease," said study author Dr. Matthew Nudy, a cardiology fellow at Penn State Hershey Medical Center.
This study didn't prove a cause-and-effect relationship, it only showed an association between menopausal symptoms and stroke and other heart and blood vessel diseases. It's possible that menopause symptoms might not be a cause of these problems at all. It may be that other factors, such as obesity or diabetes, may lead to both menopausal symptoms and poor health outcomes.
Nudy also noted that past research has shown that women with menopausal symptoms often have other risk factors for heart disease and stroke, such as high blood pressure and cholesterol. They also may have poorer blood vessel health and increased levels of inflammation.
The latest research used data from a previous trial of more than 20,000 women between the ages of 50 and 79. The average follow-up time for the study was seven years.
The study looked for symptoms that included:
- Hot flashes
- Night sweats
- Irregular heartbeats, such as a racing heartbeat or a feeling of skipped beats
- Feeling restless or fidgety
- Feeling tired
- Difficulty concentrating or forgetfulness
- Mood swings
- Vaginal dryness
- Breast tenderness
- Headache or migraine
- Waking up multiple times at night.
The researchers found that when two or more of these symptoms were moderate to severe, the odds of stroke increased by 41%. The odds of any cardiovascular disease increased by 37% in women with two or more moderate to severe symptoms compared to women who had none.
Women who have multiple or more moderate to severe symptoms from menopause may be more likely to see a doctor for relief of those symptoms. Nudy said that's a good opportunity for doctors to assess their heart disease and stroke risk.
Dr. Eugenia Gianos, director of women's heart health at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City, reviewed the study and said it reaffirms previous studies on potentially negative effects associated with menopausal symptoms.
"Many cardiac syndromes are unique to women and hormonal differences may explain the differences noted," Gianos said.
"Unfortunately, supplementation with calcium and vitamin D did not improve outcomes," she added.
Future research needs to determine what factors may be responsible for the negative effects of menopause and menopausal symptoms on women's health, and find ways to ease menopausal symptoms and any poor outcomes linked to them, Gianos noted.
The findings were presented this week at the virtual meeting of the North American Menopause Society. Findings presented at meetings are typically viewed as preliminary until they've been published in a peer-reviewed journal.
Learn more about menopausal symptoms from the U.S. Office on Women's Health.
SOURCES: Matthew Nudy, M.D., cardiology fellow, Penn State Hershey Medical Center, Hershey, Pa.; Eugenia Gianos, M.D., director, women's heart health, Lenox Hill Hospital, New York City; Sept. 28, 2020, presentation, North American Menopause Society virtual meeting