April 12 (UPI) -- A new study shows hot flashes in younger women may be a sign of emerging vascular dysfunction that can lead to cardiovascular disease.
The study, from The North American Menopause Society, or NAMS, found women between the ages of 40 and 53 who experience frequent hot flashes may be at increased risk of developing heart disease.
Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in women and hot flashes are reported by 70 percent of premenopausal and menopausal women, with a third reporting frequent or severe hot flashes.
Researchers studied 272 non-smoking women age 40 to 60 years old and found the effect hot flashes have on endothelial cells, the inner lining of blood vessels, impacts the ability of blood vessels to dilate.
The study, published in the journal Menopause, did not find a similar effect in older women age 54 to 60, showing that early hot flashes may be linked to an increased risk of heart disease.
"Hot flashes are not just a nuisance," Dr. JoAnn Pinkerton, executive director of NAMS, said in a press release. "They have been linked to cardiovascular, bone, and brain health. In this study, physiologically measured hot flashes appear linked to cardiovascular changes occurring early during the menopause transition."
These findings can offer important information for healthcare providers in assessing a woman's risk of heart disease leading up to and during menopause.