Women’s Health: Night sweats linked to greater bone loss

More severe menopausal symptoms may be an indicator of greater osteoporosis risk

by 1

There’s something far more serious to night sweats than having to change the sheets. Researchers have found that women with severe hot flashes or night sweats have significantly more bone loss than women who do not experience these menopausal symptoms.

This bone loss could put the women at greater risk for osteoporosis, a brittle-bone condition that can have serious consequences such as hip fractures.

Dr. Jerilynn Prior, a professor of endocrinology and metabolism at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, studied 10 years of data on more than 1,400 women who ranged in age from 43 to 63 years in 1997/98. At the beginning of the study, two-thirds of the women were menopausal and the rest hadn’t reached menopause or were just starting it. One-quarter of the women reported having so-called vasomotor symptoms, including hot flashes and night sweats.

After accounting for various factors that affect the severity of vasomotor symptoms, such as the use of hormone replacement therapy, Prior found that women who had severe symptoms experienced a 1.6 to 2.2 per cent drop in bone density in the hip, compared with a 1.0 to 1.3 per cent drop in women without vasomotor symptoms.

Prior says the study highlights why night sweats are more important than they may seem. “It’s either a way of identifying people at greater risk of bone loss (or) … it’s saying it’s a good idea to pay attention to hot flushes because they have other health risks.”

Although this study did not specifically look at reasons behind the association between hot flashes and bone loss, Prior says previous studies have suggested hormone changes may affect both conditions.