Hot flashes plus migraines ups risk of heart disease and stroke after menopause

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Women in menopause who have both migraines and vasomotor symptoms – the medical term for hot flashes and night sweats – have a higher risk for heart disease or stroke, new research finds.

The findings, published in the journal Menopause, leveraged data from nearly 2,000 women aged 18 to 30 enrolled in the NHLBI-funded Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults (CARDIA) study. The research team followed the women for 15 years and recorded cardiovascular disease events and strokes, combined with data on frequency of migraines and vasomotor symptoms during the study period. 

The researchers discovered that the risk of developing heart disease was 1.5 times greater among women who regularly had both early adulthood migraines and persistent and frequent vasomotor symptoms during menopause, compared to women who very rarely or never had these symptoms. Additionally, the women with combined migraines and vasomotor symptoms had a 1.7 times greater risk of having a stroke, yet having a history of migraine or vasomotor symptoms alone did not increase risk of heart disease or stroke. The researchers also found that the risk levels for both heart disease and stroke declined after the team adjusted for traditional cardiovascular risk factors such as cigarette use, cholesterol, and blood pressure.