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Combination of Migraines, Some Menopausal Symptoms Linked to Heart Disease

The menopausal transition can be brutal for some women—and some of the symptoms also may suggest a greater risk for cardiovascular disease.

A study published in the journal Menopause in March 2024 reported two interesting sets of data:

• a subset of middle-aged women who experience migraines and also have a long-term history of hot flashes and/or night sweats have a slightly higher risk of heart disease and stroke.

• women who did not experience vasomotor symptoms and migraines after menopause did not have an excessive risk of cardiovascular disease once the researchers considered other risk factors.

This study used longitudinal data from the Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults (CARDIA), which began in the 1980s. More than 1,900 study participants, who are now in their 50s and 60s, initially joined the study when they were in their late teens to early 30s. The participants underwent regular physical exams and blood tests and responded to an annual survey.

In analyzing the data, the researchers found that approximately 30% of the middle-aged study participants reported persistent hot flashes and night sweats. Of those, 23% also experienced migraines. "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," said Dr. Catherine Kim from the University of Michigan’s Michigan Medicine, who served as the study’s lead author.

However, the researchers also found that 43% of the participants had minimal levels of vasomotor symptoms (hot flashes or flushes and night sweats) in their 50s and 27% of these women saw an increase in these symptoms over time that continued into their early 60s. The analysis found that these two groups did not face an excessive cardiovascular risk once other risk factors were considered.

The research team encouraged these women to focus on improving their cardiovascular health through committing to a healthy diet, exercise and quality sleep, as, quitting use of tobacco products, and controlling their blood pressure, blood sugar, cholesterol, and weight. Additionally, they pointed out that some medications may help with migraines and vasomotor symptoms.

I Start Wondering’s team invites every woman to take time to understand bodily changes caused by the menopausal transition and then take appropriate courses of action based on your own research in consultation with trusted medical and other health professionals.

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