Hot flashes in women are commonly considered a benign symptom of menopause, and so they are often disregarded by health professionals in the diagnosis of other conditions. A recent study found that this approach is wrong, as frequent hot flashes may point to a wildly different type of health issue - cardiovascular problems. The researchers link hot flashes and an increased risk of heart attack and stroke, making them an important diagnostic tool.
Why is it only now that researchers started considering hot flashes a manifestation of conditions other than menopause? The reason appears to be that this symptom is observed exclusively in women, and much of what we know about heart disease is modeled on male patients, so much so that women have a 50% higher chance to be misdiagnosed following a heart attack than men, according to the British Heart Foundation.
And this is a systemic issue, with medical professionals admitting that they’re lacking the preventative tools for cardiovascular issues in women. Hot flashes might be one such tool, with the researchers who conducted the experiment pointing out that the recurrence of hot flashes in women predicted their chance of suffering from a heart attack and stroke in the future.
The study was conducted at the University of Pittsburgh and first discussed at the North American Menopause Society, and it observed the health of 3.300 participants over the course of 22 years. The research is part of the Study of Women’s Health Across the Nation, which enrolled African American, Hispanic, Asian American and white women aged 42-52 in the 1990s.
The study concluded that frequent and persistent hot flashes during the menopausal transition increased a woman’s risk of suffering from cardiovascular issues by 50-80%. Certainly, this is just the first step in understanding how cardiovascular disease differs between men and women, and hopefully, other large longitudinal studies like this one will shed more light to the issue and help doctors develop effective preventative interventions for women at risk of heart disease.
Meanwhile, what we as individuals can do to take care of our health better is to stay active, eat healthy, and undergo health checks, such as annual monitoring of cholesterol levels, blood pressure, and blood sugar.