Night sweats and hot flashes in healthy postmenopausal women are correlated to a reduced risk for death for 20 years after menopause, independent of use of hormone therapy, according to the results of a prospective, population-based cohort study reported in the September issue of Menopause. "Night sweats, reported by approximately half of postmenopausal women, are thought to reflect more severe hot flashes, although there is some evidence that they have a different etiology and may have more severe consequences related to impaired sleep," write researchers from University Hospital of North Norway in Tromsø, Norway, and colleagues. "The purpose of this study was to examine the associations of vasomotor symptoms with risk of all cause, cardiovascular disease (CVD), and coronary heart disease (CHD) mortality in community-dwelling older women, with a mean age of 69 years." The study cohort consisted of 867 postmenopausal women who gave lifestyle and menopause-related history at the 1984 to 1987 visit of the Rancho Bernardo Study and who responded to a questionnaire, mailed in 1989, on menopause and vasomotor symptoms.
Follow-up for survival continued through July 2004 in 98% of the cohort. Average duration of follow-up was 11.5 years. Hot flashes were reported by 73% of women, and 39% of these also reported night sweats. Of 405 deaths during follow-up, 194 were attributed to CVD and 71 to CHD. There was no apparent association between hot flashes alone and all-cause mortality. However, women who had night sweats as well as hot flashes had an almost 30% lower all-cause mortality risk vs women who did not have night sweats (hazard ratio [HR], 0.72; 95% confidence interval [CI], 0.55 - 0.94). This association was independent of body mass index (BMI), past or current use of estrogen or progestin, physical exercise, and smoking status.