Health Buzz: Early Menopause Symptoms Could Mean Better Heart Health

Could eating more fiber help you live longer? Plus: how your personality affects your health.

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Hot Flashes, Night Sweats Early in Menopause Could Mean Fewer Cardiovascular Problems

Menopausal women don't celebrate symptoms like hot flashes and night sweats, but new research suggests there's a silver living. Women who experience such symptoms at the start of menopause may be less likely to have a heart attack or stroke later in life, according to a study published Thursday in the journal Menopause. The findings are based on an analysis of more than 60,000 postmenopausal women ages 50 to 79. Researchers found that women who had their worst hot flashes and night sweats around the time menopause started had a 17 percent lower rate of stroke and an 11 percent lower rate of heart-related health problems during a followup period of nearly 10 years than women who had no initial symptoms. Heart attack and deaths from any cause also were lower, by 24 percent and 22 percent respectively. Why early symptoms are associated with fewer cardiovascular events is unclear, the researchers said, but they noted that hot flashes that occur well after menopause may indicate instability in the blood vessels.

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  • Could More Fiber in Your Diet Extend Your Life?

    Hear fiber and you probably think of bran cereal, which may not make you salivate. But new research suggests more fiber could equal more years. Analyzing data from nearly 400,000 men and women ages 50 to 71, researchers found that those who consumed the most fiber were 22 percent less likely to die from any cause during the nine years they were studied. Men were 24 to 56 percent and women 34 to 59 percent less likely to die of heart and infectious or respiratory diseases, according to findings from the National Institutes of Health's AARP Diet and Health Study, published last week in the Archives of Internal Medicine.

    Why fiber reduces the risk of early death is unclear. Perhaps it's because fiber lowers levels of "bad" LDL cholesterol, improves blood glucose levels, reduces inflammation, and binds to potential cancer-causing agents, helping to flush them out of the body, says lead author Yikyung Park, a staff scientist at the National Cancer Institute.

    What is clear, however, is that participants only benefited when fiber came from grains, like oatmeal, cornmeal, and brown rice, U.S. News reports. Fiber from fruits, vegetables, and beans had no impact on death risk. "Whole grains are rich sources of fiber, but also good sources of vitamins, minerals, and other phytochemicals that may provide health benefits," Park says. And grains have powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties—another reason researchers say grain fiber is beneficial. [Read more: Could Getting More Fiber Help You Live Longer?]

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    • How Your Personality Affects Your Health

      Could your personality kill you—or might it make you live longer? Could it give you heart disease, or protect you from illness? Could it push you toward or away from doctor appointments? Personality traits play a distinct role in determining how healthy we are, psychologists say. "Everything is related to everything else. How stressed or angry you are, and how you interact with the world, is contingent in large part on your personality style," says Michael Miller, editor in chief of the Harvard Mental Health Letter. "And that is going to have an enormous impact on your health." Here's a look at two common personality types and traits and how each can help or hurt your health (sometimes both):

      Hostile. One of the aspects of the impatient, hard-charging Type A personality that is known to increase heart disease risk is hostility, U.S. News reports. Hostile people eat and smoke more and exercise less than other personality types, says Redford Williams, head of behavioral medicine at Duke University Medical Center and author of Anger Kills. They're likelier to be overweight in middle age and have higher cholesterol and blood pressure. Williams's past research suggests hostile people are also more likely to develop irregular heart rhythms, and to die before reaching their 50s. Most of these problems can be traced back to elevated levels of the stress hormone cortisol, as well as increased inflammation in the walls of the coronary arteries, which leads to a greater risk of heart attack.