Are hot flushes a diabetes warning sign?

Hot flushes, the most common symptom of menopause, increase the risk of serious health problems, including heart disease. A new study suggests that they also may increase the risk of developing diabetes, especially when accompanied by night sweats.

During the study, which has been published in Menopause, the journal of the North American Menopause Society, data from more than 150,000 postmenopausal women was analysed.

Of the total population studied, 33 per cent of the women had experienced hot flushes. Any incidence was associated with an 18 per cent increased diabetes risk, and this risk continued to climb on the basis of the severity and duration of the hot flashes. Moreover, diabetes risk was the most pronounced for women reporting any type of night sweats but only if the onset of hot flushes occurred late in the menopause transition.

Compared with men with diabetes, women with diabetes have a higher risk of being hospitalised for or dying from diabetes and its complications, which makes the timely identification and management of diabetes through lifestyle intervention or medical management critical.

Dr. JoAnn Pinkerton, executive director of the North American Menopause Society, said: ‘This study showed that, after adjustment for obesity and race, women with more severe night sweats, with or without hot flashes, still had a higher risk of diabetes.’

‘Menopause is a perfect time to encourage behaviour changes that reduce menopause symptoms, as well as the risk of diabetes and heart disease. Suggestions include getting regular exercise and adequate sleep, avoiding excess alcohol, stopping smoking, and eating a heart-healthy diet. For symptomatic women, hormone therapy started near menopause improves menopause symptoms and reduces the risk of diabetes.’