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Menopausal hot flashes may be good for heart

February 25, 2011 12:00:00 AM PST
In terms of a woman's heart health, scientists say having hot flashes might be better than not having them at all.

On YouTube, Katrina Saroyan is the picture of calm perfection as she plays the harp, but she's always worried a hot flash will come and ruin her performance.

"I'll have a hot flash every 20 minutes or so and I'm sweating in my beautiful dresses," said the 59-year-old performer.

Saroyan has had these episodes since her menopausal symptoms began eight years ago.

Now a new study finds early onset hot flashes may protect her from heart disease and an early death.

The women's health initiative study followed 60,000 women for 10 years.

By contrast, women who never had hot flashes or developed them late experienced more heart attacks and deaths than the early onset group.

Cardiologist Dr. Lisa Matzer says the new information shows hot flashes may be Mother Nature's way of protecting a woman's arteries.

"There is a chance that maybe your body's blood vessels are reacting in a normal way and they're dilating earlier on," Matzer said.

The study suggests hot flashes may offer more than just a physiological protection effect. Matzer says women who get them earlier may simply be going to the doctor earlier.

"Because we know that if you don't get checked out and change things, later on in your life, you're going to have a problem with your heart," Matzer said.

Matzer feels the new information may add to the argument that hot flashes need not necessarily be treated with hormone replacement.

Saroyan doesn't take anything for her symptoms, she simply embraces them.