Meeta 45 was enjoying a night out with friends when it started; ‘first a flush, then a sensation of warmth crawling down her body. Soon she began perspiring and — another hot flash’. She felt awful and hapless. She rang up her gynecologist from her mobile, who assured her, ‘never mind, it could be normal menopausal symptoms at your age! There is no risk. You can discuss the details on your next visit.’
An estimated three out of four women experience hot flashes associated with menopause and nearly all would agree they are a nuisance. But experts say ‘Women who suffer from hot flashes and night sweats may be at lower risk for cardiovascular disease, stroke and death. Hot flashes will never be enjoyable, but perhaps these findings will make them more tolerable’. Symptoms of menopause—mood swings, problem in sexual intimacy, hot flashes and night sweats— can be embarrassing, and in many cases they can interfere with daily life. It turns out that those women who have these episodes early in menopausal zone, have an 11% lower risk of heart disease over the next 10 years, compared with women who don’t suffer the same symptoms. The current study also found that women reporting hot flashes years after menopause were 23% more likely to experience a heart event than women who weathered their most intense symptoms early in menopause. Because heart-disease risk increases in women’s postmenopausal years as levels of the heart-protective hormone estrogen decline, this risk reduction is potentially lifesaving. However, it has been reported that occurrence of early menopause entails increased risk of heart diseases that may be asymptomatic and subclinical and all such cases require detailed investigations for heart ailments, early.
Researchers don’t know why the hot flashes symptoms may reduce heart risk, but they theorize that the blood-vessel activity that occurs during flushing primes the heart and vessels to combat plaque buildup and hardening of arteries. This view has emerged after a study of 60000 patients studied for 10 years by women health initiative and reported in March 2011 issue of Time magazine. This study contradicts previous reports suggesting that menopause symptoms were associated with increased levels of risk markers for heart disease, such as blood pressure and cholesterol and that Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) should be given in all cases.
Does this mean that women who treat their symptoms with HRT might be missing out on potential health benefits? Not quite. Hormone therapy has been linked to an increased risk of breast cancer, so doctors use it sparingly—in the lowest possible doses and for the shortest time—simply to alleviate symptoms. HRT is not known to reduce the risk of heart disease in menopausal women in any case. Do not indulge in self medication with hormones.
What should you do?
Although about 6 in 10 women get hot flushes during the menopause, only 2 in 10 say the flushes bother them. If you are bothered by hot flushes, HRT can help you, but it does have side effects. It’s recommended that you take HRT at the lowest effective dose and for the shortest possible time. You can look after your health as you grow older by:
- Eat a balanced, healthy diet with plenty of fruit and vegetables and low amounts of fats and supplements of essential fatty acids, amino acids and vitamins.
- Not Drinking of alcohol
- Maintaining a healthy weight
- Not smoking
- Staying active, both physically and mentally
- Talking to your doctor and taking treatment for conditions such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or osteoporosis.
- Regular advice from your gynecologist during menopausal phase
- Take HRT under medical supervision only
Dr. Mrs. Meenal Kumar
Sr. Gynecologist Chandigarh firstname.lastname@example.org