Women who have hot flashes and night sweats at the start of menopause may be less likely to have a heart attack later in life, U.S. researchers said.
But women who develop these symptoms later in menopause may have higher heart disease risks, the team reported in the journal Menopause.
"Our study provides reassurance that the classic symptoms of early menopause, experienced by the majority of women at mid-life, are not a marker of an increased risk of heart attack or stroke in the future," Dr. JoAnn Manson of Brigham and Women's Hospital, who worked on the study, said in a statement.
The findings come from a new analysis of the large clinical trial called the Women's Health Initiative in 2002 that showed hormone replacement therapy raised the risk of breast and ovarian cancers and strokes in older women, and doctors now prescribe it sparingly.
Mason and colleagues found that women with hot flashes or night sweats at the start of menopause were no more likely to have a heart attack, stroke or to die during the study period than women who did not have these symptoms.
And there was some suggestion that night sweats and hot flashes reduced those risks. For example, women with early hot flashes and night sweats had a 17 percent lower risk of stroke, an 11 percent lower risk of heart disease and an 11 percent lower risk of death during the study period from any cause.
Women who developed hot flashes or night sweats later on in menopause, however, had a 32 percent higher risk of heart attack and a 29 percent higher risk of death compared with women who got these symptoms early on.
About three out of four menopausal women experience hot flashes or night sweats early in menopause, the team said.