If hot flashes have you steamed, you’re not alone. Some 60 percent of women will experience the flushing, rapid heartbeat, dizziness and sweating of a hot flash, or its cousin, the night sweat, at some time during menopause. And it turns out that getting hot under the collar, or the covers, may be more than just a nuisance – it may lead to bone loss.

Two large studies published in the March/April 2009 issue of the journal Menopause conclude that women who get hot flashes are also more likely to have lower bone density than women who don’t get them.

Experts aren’t yet sure what causes hot flashes, much less how they may be linked to bone loss, but one theory is that they may be a marker for the steepness of hormonal changes during menopause.

If you’re having frequent hot flashes, Carolyn J. Crandall, MD, professor of medicine at the University of California, Los Angeles, who led one of the studies, says it probably doesn’t mean you have osteoporosis, at least not yet. But she thinks you should be aware that you’re probably losing bone at a rate that puts you at risk for that diagnosis.

“It would be good to go and discuss bone health with your doctor for sure,” Dr. Crandall says.

Another common-sense measure Dr. Crandall recommends: Make sure you get at least with 1,200 milligrams of calcium and 800 milligrams of vitamin D daily.