Researchers say that the combination of symptoms during the onset of menopause in a woman such as hot flashes and night sweats may indicate a greater risk of heart problems. In addition, many health organizations wish to recall that this pivotal period is not without danger for the heart.

Contraception, pregnancy, menopause: these are three periods in a woman's hormonal life where she has cardiac vulnerability. It is during menopause that women tend to gain weight, to have an excess of bad cholesterol, to develop diabetes ... all factors that multiply the cholesterol plaques in the arteries and therefore, the risk of cardiovascular disease. Researchers at Penn State Hershey Medical Center (USA) took a closer look at this risk in a scientific study that was presented at the North American Menopause Society (NAMS) Annual Meeting 2020.

Menopause is accompanied by many symptoms that can interfere with a woman's quality of life such as weight gain, night sweats, mood disorders (anxiety, depression, insomnia, irritability ...) and flushing (commonly known as hot flashes) but can they also cause health problems? Yes, the researchers say, with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease in women who have two or more moderate to severe symptoms. The researchers also wanted to know if supplementing with calcium and vitamin D could mitigate the risk, but no evidence to support this was found.

"These symptoms can be more than a mild nuisance"

They believe that the symptoms of menopause considered to be "triggers for the additional risk of heart disease" included: hot flashes, night sweats, dizziness, rapid heartbeat, tremors, fatigue, difficulty concentrating, forgetfulness, swings. mood, vaginal dryness, breast tenderness, migraines and multiple awakenings during the night. But scientists found that even severe hot flashes were not associated with any adverse clinical outcome when occurring on their own. But if they appear alongside another symptom, an increased risk of cardiovascular disease is present.

“With heart disease still the number one killer of women, studies like this are invaluable,” says Dr. Stephanie Faubion, medical director of NAMS. “Health care providers should be aware that the symptoms of menopause can be more than a mild nuisance and that women who have them may be at increased risk for cardiovascular disease. It is important to identify those at risk so that strategies can be implemented, ”she concludes. In France, the Health Insurance advises postmenopausal women to prevent cardiovascular risk through an adapted lifestyle.

Cardiovascular disease can be prevented

This involves above all a healthy and balanced diet (favor fish, white meats, fruits and vegetables and avoid cold meats and industrial dishes), smoking cessation if necessary and the practice of physical activity every day: prefer the stairs to the escalator or the elevator, make short journeys on foot rather than by car or transport, walk during free time, maintain your house (cleaning, gardening ...). Note that the French Federation of Cardiology (FFC) insists on the fact that this period of hormonal changes requires special attention: a key moment to have your cardiovascular status assessed.

In fact, the drop in protective estrogen hormones is accompanied by a metabolic and vascular transition. "In the absence of preventive hygiene, this transition is frequently accompanied by a significant risk of weight gain, arterial hypertension (hypertension), dyslipidemia and diabetes, metabolic syndrome, all factors which increase the cardiovascular risk ”, specifies the organization. "The climacteric symptoms of menopause are also risk factors for acute cardiovascular accidents" According to the FFC, the occurrence of at least six hot flashes per day is accompanied by an increased risk of hypertension, increased LDL cholesterol and insulin resistance.