Hot flashes are a common complaint among women experiencing menopause, but a new study indicates that they could be much more than an uncomfortable symptom. Researchers found that experiencing hot flashes at a younger age, around 40 to 53 years old, could indicate poor vascular function, according to Medscape.

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Scientists looked at data from 272 nonsmoking women between 40 and 69 years old. Participants were either perimenopausal, meaning they were around the age for menopause, or postmenopausal. Women with certain conditions like kidney failure, seizures, Parkinson’s disease, those with hysterectomies and neoplasia were not included in the study, reports Medscape. Women who have used hormones, insulin, cardiovascular drugs and reuptake inhibitors were also excluded.

The subjects completed physical exams; tracked their hot flashes; and confirmed their menopause status during the study. Scientists found that those from 40 to 53 who suffered with hot flashes had poorer endothelial function, which is linked to heart problems.

“Among younger midlife women, frequent hot flashes were associated with poorer endothelial function and may provide information about women's vascular status beyond cardiovascular disease risk factors and estradiol,” the authors write in the paper.

According to the Mayo Clinic, heart disease is one of the leading causes of death in Americans. The signs, however, aren’t always easy to detect, as the website explains areas outside of the chest can be affected, like the neck, jaw, shoulder, and upper back. Nausea, vomiting and sweating are other signs that often go undetected.

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While hereditary factors can contribute to heart disease, there are many controllable factors that can limit your risk. Diabetes, depression, smoking and lack of physical activity can all increase your chances, writes Mayo Clinic. The hospital advises regular exercise, not smoking and eating a diet full of whole grains, fruits and vegetables, to reduce your risk.

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