Early Menopause Symptoms Plus Migraines Signal Heart Risks

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Feb. 15, 2024 – Having hot flashes, night sweats, and migraines regularly in early adulthood may mean a higher risk of heart disease or a stroke, a new study in the journal Menopause suggests.

The risk of developing heart disease or other cardiovascular problems was 1.5 times higher among women who regularly had migraines and vasomotor symptoms – the medical term for night sweats and hot flashes during menopause – in their 20s and 30s, compared to women who had the same problems infrequently or never. 

The stroke risk was even higher among women who regularly had hot flashes, night sweats, and migraines over a period of 15 years. The study analyzed data from nearly 2,000 women from the time that they were, on average, 25 years old until they reached the age of 40.

The researchers did not find any independently increased risk of heart problems or stroke linked to having migraines, or based on the regularity of night sweats and hot flashes. The finding suggests the combination of the symptoms may mean a higher risk of heart problems or stroke heading into middle age.

About 18% of women in their later reproductive years have migraines, the study authors said, noting that stroke has long been linked to migraines and that most people have their first migraine before the age of 50.

The researchers also found that women who have migraines plus hot flashes and night sweats likely can reduce their risk of stroke or heart problems by quitting smoking and by treating conditions such as high blood sugar, high cholesterol, and high blood pressure. 

A separate study, also published in Menopause, identified risk factors for regular night sweats and hot flashes during early adulthood. The analysis pointed to three patterns of vasomotor symptoms among women during their 20s and 30s:

  • 40% had minimal symptoms
  • 27% had symptoms that increased over time
  • 33% had constant symptoms

Women who were Black, had less than a high school education, symptoms of depression, migraines, who smoked cigarettes, or had a hysterectomy were more likely to have constant symptoms.

“The anxiety and dread that women with migraines and menopausal symptoms feel about cardiovascular risk is real – but these findings suggest that focusing on prevention, and correcting unhealthy habits and risk factors, could help most women,” Catherine Kim, MD, MPH., a University of Michigan associate professor of internal medicine who was the lead author of both studies, said in a statement. “For the subgroup with both migraines and early persistent hot flashes and night sweats, and for those currently experiencing migraines in their early adulthood, these findings point to an added need to control risks, and address symptoms early.”