A new study out of Pennsylvania presented at the 2020 Virtual Annual Meeting of The North American Menopause Society (NAMS) raises concern about a link between menopause symptoms and heart health.
The study suggests that having two or more moderate to severe menopause symptoms can lead to a significantly higher risk of cardiovascular disease and stroke.
The symptoms considered triggers for this higher risk include: hot flashes, night sweats, dizziness, racing heart, tremors, restlessness, fatigue, difficulty concentrating, forgetfulness, mood swings, vaginal dryness, breast tenderness, migraines, and waking multiple times through the night.
Researchers found that hot flashes were the most common symptom reported.
“We found that even severe hot flashes were not associated with any adverse clinical health outcomes when occurring on their own, but if they or any other moderate to severe menopause symptoms were present in combination, there was an association with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, said lead author of the study, Dr. Matthew Nudy from Penn State Hershey Medical Center.
As heart disease remains the number one killer of women, studies like this one provide an important reminder to pay attention to symptoms.
Dr. Stephanie Faubion, medical director for NAMS, says “Healthcare providers need to be aware that menopause symptoms may be more than a benign nuisance, and women suffering from these symptoms may be at increased risk for cardiovascular disease. Identifying women at high risk is important so that risk reduction strategies can be implemented.”
The researchers investigated whether taking calcium and vitamin D supplements lessen the risk, but they found no such evidence.
The American Heart Association (AHA) advises menopausal women to take care of their heart through regular exercise, good nutrition, and the elimination of unhealthy habits like smoking.
On its website, the AHA advocates for at least 150 minutes of physical activity each week to help prevent heart disease (or 300 minutes or more for significant weight loss), along with a diet that emphasizes fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy products, poultry, fish, and nuts. It advises limiting red meat and sugary foods/beverages.