Research conducted by the University of Pittsburgh suggest that women who experience hot flashes at a younger age and who have them more frequently than the normal woman may be at increased risk of heart disease.
The study, conducted by associate professor of psychiatry, Rebecca Thurston, found evidence of a link between hot flashes in younger women and the health of the brachial artery – specifically, its capacity to dilate under certain circumstances – in the upper arm. The dilation is controlled partly by the endothelium, a blood vessel's inner lining. Previous research has established a link between dysfunction of this inner lining and heart disease.
Ms. Thurston reviewed data on 104 post-menopausal women with symptoms of heart disease. She found that those women who suffered from hot flashes when they were 42 and younger had significantly poorer endothelial function than those who first experienced hot flashes at an older age.
She conducted a separate study which included 189 fairly healthy women between the ages of 40 and 60. The women were divided into three groups based on their age and were monitored by the number of hot flashes they experienced within 24-hours. Ms. Thurston found that the more hot flashes experienced by women in the youngest age group, the poorer their brachial artery and endothelial function. There were no similar findings in the other two groups.
Ms. Thurston encourages women who experience hot flashes at a younger age to pay attention to their diet, glucose control, weight and blood pressure and to see a doctor for a cardiovascular workup. Only a small percentage of women seek treatment for hot flashes so it's important for women who experience early onset hot flashes to talk to their doctor about their risk of heart disease.
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