Hot flashes in women are linked with high blood pressure, suggests a new study that may be the first to discover the connection.

In the study of 154 women, women who experienced hot flashes had an age-adjusted systolic blood pressure of 141 while awake, and an average "top-number" reading of 129. However, those who were not experiencing hot flashes had readings of 132 and 119.

The women in the study were between 18 and 65; the mean age was 46.

"One-third of the women we studied reported having hot flashes within the past two weeks. Among these women, systolic blood pressure was significantly higher-even after adjusting for whether they were premenopausal, menopausal or postmenopausal," notes study lead Dr. Linda Gerber, professor of public health and medicine, and director of the biostatistics and research methodology core at Weill Cornell Medical College in New York City.

That's significant, since high blood pressure is a major risk factor for heart disease, which accounts for half of all deaths among American women age 50 and older. And during and following menopause, the risk of heart disease increases.

Previous research has linked menopause—but not hot flashes, per se—to high blood pressure.

Better Hot Flash Therapy

Nearly 500 postmenopausal women applied an estrogen gel (Bio-E-Gel) or a placebo gel to their upper arms once a day for 12 weeks.

Result: Hot flashes were reduced in the low-(0.87 g daily), mid-(1.7 g daily) and high-dose (2.6 g daily) gel groups by 71%, 80% and 85%, respectively, compared with 45% in the placebo group. Bio-E-Gel increases estrogen concentrations to help reduce hot flashes, but at a dose lower than FDA-approved products.

Theory: Lower-dose estrogen may lead to fewer side effects and less long-term risk for breast cancer. The gel is currently undergoing FDA review.

Warning for Women Postmenopausal women are more prone to vaginal infections, irritation and pain during intercourse. That's because the labia—the folds of tissue that surround and protect the vagina—loses plumpness when estrogen levels drop after menopause.

Self-defense: Ask your doctor about local estrogen therapy—creams, suppositories, rings or tablets inserted into the vagina—that can deliver small amounts of estrogen to help keep tissues plump.

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