Women suffering from premenstrual syndrome (PMS) may only be experiencing the early stages of what appears to be a meaner, future health problem: high blood pressure.

The rising rates of hypertension among women warrants new methods to detect high-risk individuals who need to be targeted for early intervention. In a new study from the University of Massachusetts Amherst and Harvard School of Public Health, researchers found that the headaches, abdominal cramping, fatigue and other symptoms associated with PMS may be signs of impending hypertension.

"To my knowledge, this is the first large long-term study to suggest that PMS may be related to risk of chronic health conditions in later life," said Elizabeth Bertone-Johnson from the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

To perform the study, the researchers assessed the link in 1,257 women who experienced clinical PMS from 1991-2005. The same evaluation was performed in 2,463 age-matched control study subjects with minimal menstrual-related symptoms. All the participants were part of the Nurses' Health Study II.

The researchers utilized a modified Calendar of Premenstrual Experiences, which entails PMS symptoms such as nausea, dizziness, forgetfulness, depression, insomnia, cramping, hot flashes and acne.

A sub study was also conducted, wherein the authors followed up study subjects for new hypertension diagnoses until 2011.

The results of the evaluation showed that women experiencing moderate to severe PMS had higher risk of developing hypertension by up to about 40 percent over a 20-year period, compared to those who experience less menstrual symptoms.

Although the authors adjusted recognized risk factors such as body mass index, cigarette smoking, alcohol consumption, physical activity, postmenopausal hormone use, familial history of hypertension and use of oral contraceptives, the spiked risk for high blood pressure continued to persist.

The findings were most notable among high blood pressure occurring before the age of 40. In this group of women, the risk of women experiencing PMS to develop hypertension is three times higher compared to those without PMS.

"These results suggest that PMS might be associated with future development of hypertension and that this risk may be modifiable," the authors wrote.

Women with known high dietary intake of B vitamins riboflavin and thiamine are less vulnerable to experiencing PMS symptoms. Another study found that high intake of the said vitamins lowers a woman's risk of developing PMS by 25-30 percent. With this, the authors recommend women to up their vitamin B intake, not only to reduce PMS symptoms but also to curb their risk for hypertension.

The study was published in the American Journal of Epidemiology on Tuesday, Nov. 24.

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