85% of people who experience migraines are female, according to the Migraine Research Foundation. When these women go through the menopause, they’re at greater risk of hot flashes and heart disease, new research has found. But what is the link between all three and how can women successfully manage their health during this time of their life?
The link between migraines and hot flashes
A study conducted by the North American Menopause Society (NAMS) found that the women in the study who had lived with migraines throughout their lives experienced worse menopause symptoms, including intense hot flashes, than those without migraines. It’s not believed that migraines make hot flashes worse, instead researchers say that both conditions cause neurovascular dysregulation – a blood flow condition. This condition explains why migraines and hot flashes during the menopause are connected, says the medical director of NAMS, Dr. Stephanie Faubion.
Dealing with menopausal symptoms
Hot flashes are common during the menopause, with 80% of women having them. However, females who experience severe hot flashes are also likely to have to deal with other menopausal symptoms, including night sweats and vaginal dryness. Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) is one option for these individuals, and it’s suitable for migraine patients too. HRT can significantly reduce hot flashes and, in some cases, stop them altogether. It’s also good for migraines as a steady estrogen level can lessen them. HRT is also effective at preventing feminine health issues. Many perimenopausal women experience recurring episodes of bacterial vaginosis (BV) due to changing estrogen levels and incorrect hygiene practises. Things such as using water to wash and dietary changes can help, as can HRT. When HRT is taken it balances out the hormones and reduces the majority of menopause-related symptoms, including migraines, hot flashes, and vaginal issues.
Heart disease risk
Typically, men are 50% more likely to have heart disease than women. However, NAMS discovered that the combination of menopause, migraines, and hot flashes increased the risk of cardiovascular disease. This is because it changes the way the blood vessels in the body function. Research has previously shown that people with migraines are two times more likely to have a heart attack. Meanwhile, another study concluded that repeated hot flashes put individuals at greater risk of cardiovascular disease. Therefore, a combination of the two is a big risk factor.
Faubion is positive that the study will help to identify women who are likely to have the toughest time during the menopause and help them to obtain effective treatment. The study could also potentially prevent thousands of women from getting cardiovascular disease. Ideally, women with a medical history of migraines should start HRT treatment or another preventative treatment as soon as they start the menopause or when frequent hot flashes occur. Women with a family history of cardiovascular disease, who have migraines and hot flashes during the menopause, should also be closely monitored as they have a bigger chance of developing the condition.
Women’s health is an important topic and should be closely monitored in all stages of life. But when it comes to the menopause, there’s more things than ever to be aware of and managing these symptoms is crucial to a healthy life.