Heart attack mortality is lower among menopausal women, compared to men. While menopause is a known risk factor for heart disease, the research study found women faced a lower risk of dying from a heart attack, compared to men. Unfortunately, the gender differences weren’t as significant among racial minority groups.
The study involved 23,086 black and white men and women over the age of 45. The researchers found that white women who had surgically induced menopause had a 35 percent reduction in non-fatal heart attacks, compared to white men – the risk was reduced to 55 percent in women with naturally occurring menopause. These differences were far less significant among blacks, with a 19 percent reduction among women who had surgically induced menopause and 31 percent reduction among women with naturally occurring menopause.
Study lead author Catherine Kim said, “Our findings showed that the advantage to going through natural menopause wasn’t much higher than surgical menopause. Black women should be aware that the belief that women have a lower risk of heart disease than men may not necessarily apply to them. So, it is particularly important for black women to engage in healthy preventive behaviors, such as exercising regularly and maintaining a healthy weight. But all women should adopt healthy behaviors, since heart disease remains the No. 1 cause of death in women.”
The study found that women who experience frequent hot flashes are at a higher risk for cardiovascular disease, compared to women who do not experience hot flashes frequently. Lead investigator Rebecca Thurston said, “Women with high levels of hot flashes had significantly higher intima-media thickness, compared with women with low levels of hot flashes. Low-frequency hot flashes were not a problem from a cardiovascular standpoint. The women we need to pay close attention are the ‘super flashers’ — the women who report a lot.”
The study included 304 women who were nonsmokers and free of cardiovascular disease. Although the women reported lower levels of hot flashes, the researchers found that women tend to under-report their hot flashes.
Intima-media thickness in the carotid artery – an indicator of subclinical atherosclerosis – was found to be significantly higher among women who experienced frequent hot flashes even after adjusting for other factors, including weight, diabetes, and cholesterol.
“Frequent hot flashes may be a marker of underlying risk, although it is not known whether treating the hot flashes will have any impact on underlying cardiovascular risk. We cannot necessarily say there is a causal link from these data,” added Dr. Thurston.
Dr. Thurston suggested that women experiencing frequent hot flashes should be put under cardiovascular risk watch.
Related: How long does menopause last?