FRIDAY, June 29 (HealthDay News) -- The hot flashes that bedevil so many women as they enter menopause don't appear to be linked to poorer heart health, new research suggests.
The exception to that finding may be if hot flashes persist for many years after the onset of menopause, or if the hot flashes start many years after menopause begins.
"It's very reassuring for the women who have the most common pattern of hot flashes. There is no signal of an increased cardiovascular risk for women who have hot flashes around the time of menopause," said study author Dr. Emily Szmuilowicz, assistant professor of medicine at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago. "But there may be a suggestion of increased cardiovascular risk among the smaller group of women who experience these symptoms for the first time many years after menopause or who have them for many years."
The study was presented this week at the Endocrine Society annual meeting in Houston.
A woman is considered to be in menopause one year after her last menstrual cycle. As much as 85 percent of women, by some estimates, will experience hot flashes during that time -- and possibly in the years leading up to it, said Dr. Cynthia Stuenkel, a menopause expert and clinical professor of medicine at the University of California-San Diego.
"We know that hot flashes are a very normal experience for women going through menopause," Stuenkel said.
Much of the underlying physiology of hot flashes remains a mystery, experts say. But in the past few years, some research suggests hot flashes may be associated with higher risks of cardiovascular disease.
A study published last year based on data from the Women's Health Initiative study -- a large, long-term look at postmenopausal women -- found that those who had late-onset hot flashes were at a higher risk of heart attacks and death during
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