FRIDAY, Feb. 25 (HealthDay News) -- Women who begin to experience hot flashes and night sweats early in menopause appear to be at lower risk for heart disease, stroke and death, a new study suggests.

But the start of those symptoms later in menopause may be associated with an increased cardiovascular risk, according to researchers from Northwestern University and Brigham and Women's Hospital.

They examined data from more than 60,000 women who were followed for an average of 10 years and found that women with hot flashes and night sweats at the start of menopause had a 17 percent lower risk of stroke, an 11 percent lower risk of cardiovascular disease, and an 11 percent lower risk of death, compared to women without hot flashes.

Women who developed hot flashes and night sweats later in menopause had a 32 percent higher risk of heart attack and a 29 percent higher risk of death.

No change in risk was seen in women who had hot flashes or night sweats at the start of menopause and whose symptoms continued into later menopause.

The study was published online Feb. 24 in the journal Menopause.

"Our study provides reassurance that the classic symptoms of early menopause, experienced by the majority of women at mid-life, are not a marker of an increased risk of heart attack or stroke in the future," study co-author Dr. JoAnn Manson, chief of preventive medicine at Brigham and Women's Hospital, said in a journal news release.

The researchers said more study is needed to understand the mechanisms connecting the timing of menopausal symptoms and heart risk.

About 75 percent of women experience hot flashes or night sweats early in menopause.

More information

The American Heart Association has more about menopause, heart disease and stroke.