The aim of this study was to examine the association between common menopausal symptoms (MS) and long-term cardiovascular disease (CVD) and all-cause mortality.
In an observational cohort of 80,278 postmenopausal women with no known CVD at baseline from the Women's Health Initiative, we assessed individual MS severity (mild vs none; moderate/severe vs none) for night sweats, hot flashes, waking up several times at night, joint pain or stiffness, headaches or migraines, vaginal or genital dryness, heart racing or skipping beats, breast tenderness, dizziness, tremors (shakes), feeling tired, forgetfulness, mood swings, restless or fidgety, and difficulty concentrating. Outcomes included total CVD events (primary) and all-cause mortality (secondary). Associations between specific MS, their severity, and outcomes were assessed during a median of 8.2 years of follow-up. All results were multivariable adjusted, and individual associations were Bonferroni corrected to adjust for multiple comparisons. A machine learning approach (least absolute shrinkage and selection operator) was used to select the most parsimonious set of MS most predictive of CVD and all-cause mortality.
The severity of night sweats, waking up several times at night, joint pain or stiffness, heart racing or skipping beats, dizziness, feeling tired, forgetfulness, mood swings, restless or fidgety, and difficulty concentrating were each significantly associated with total CVD. The largest hazard ratio (HR) for total CVD was found for moderate or severe heart racing or skipping beats (HR, 1.55; 95% confidence interval [CI], 1.29-1.86). The individual severities of heart racing or skipping beats, dizziness, tremors (shakes), feeling tired, forgetfulness, mood swings, restless or fidgety, and difficulty concentrating were associated with increased all-cause mortality. Moderate or severe dizziness had the largest HR (1.58; 95% CI, 1.24-2.01). Multiple symptom modeling via least absolute shrinkage and selection operator selected dizziness, heart racing, feeling tired, and joint pain as most predictive of CVD, whereas dizziness, tremors, and feeling tired were most predictive of all-cause mortality.
Among postmenopausal women with no known CVD at baseline, the severity of specific individual MS was significantly associated with incident CVD and mortality. Consideration of severe MS may enhance sex-specific CVD risk predication in future cohorts, but caution should be applied as severe MS could also indicate other health conditions.