Menopause and heart palpitations
Palpitations are heart beats that suddenly become more noticeable. They are often more rapid, and can be regular or irregular. It can feel like your heart is racing. Sometimes there is a sensation of either a missed beat, or an extra beat, and this is called an ectopic beat. Palpitations will generally only last for a few seconds - but, can sometimes continue for up to a few minutes. Menopausal palpitations are generally harmless, and often related to stress. There are, however, many causes of palpitations which are good to be aware of -The NHS choices website (LINK) has more information on them.
What to look out for with menopausal palpitations:
- Heart beating faster than normal (Heart racing)
- Heart pounding or experiencing a 'fluttery' feeling
- Irregular heart beats
Palpitations can occur as part of the symptoms of the menopause, although this is not very common. It would be unusual to have palpitations as your only symptom, so if you are not sure whether you are in the perimenopause then consult your doctor with all your symptoms. It may also help you to complete our - where you can list all your symptoms and get a clearer view on your menopause.
Why do heart palpitations happen with menopause?
The exact mechanism of palpitations as a symptom of menopause is unfortunately still unknown. It may have different causes in different women. However, it is important that you know - If you experience palpitations, it does not mean that you have developed heart disease.
What is known is that estrogen plays an important role in protecting your heart and blood vessels, suggested to be because we have estrogen receptors in those areas. When estrogen levels begin to drop, the blood vessels may grow stiffer with time, and after the menopause the risk of developing heart disease, and even heart attacks increases in women. However, menopausal palpitations are usually NOT related to heart disease.
Palpitations can also be associated with stress and anxiety. If you become anxious with hot flushes and poor sleep, this might trigger your heart beat to change. You may have even experienced them in the past, during times of uncertainty or high stress, but not really noticed it.
What are the other causes of palpitations?
Palpitations can be associated with:
- An overactive thyroid gland
- Some medications
- Recreational drugs
What can I do about them?
If your palpitations are hormonal then many of the other healthy lifestyle may help:
- Reducing intake of stimulants - This includes coffee, Tea and soft drinks containing caffeine.
- Reducing alcohol intake - Alcohol is a stimulant, and can speed up the heart. Alcohol also interferes with sleep, and can make depression and anxiety worse. It might be worth trying a month without alcohol to see if it has any effect on your symptoms.
- Practicing relaxation techniques - This can include yoga, meditation, and . Yoga and meditation have been shown to calm the mind, and can slow your heart rate.
- Breath slowly when they occur-especially if you feel panicky. may help.
- Lower your stress - We know, this can be very hard, but it is worth doing. Stress itself can cause heart palpitations, so excessive stress on top of your menopause may make them worse
- - Try and include more unprocessed, high fibre foods that release sugars slowly. Eating ultra processed, high sugar , high fat foods may lead to rapidly swinging blood sugar, possibly triggering palpitations. A balanced diet should help you heart health and weight as well.
When should I seek help?
If you develop new palpitations, however, it may be sensible to discuss this with your doctor. There are times you should seek medical help urgently, when:
- Palpitations are associated with chest pain
- Palpitations that are happening very frequently or regularly
- Palpitations that last longer than a few minutes
- Palpitations that get worse over time
- Palpitations that make you feel breathless or faint
- Palpitations on top of an existing heart condition you may have
It is helpful to get an ECG (heart tracing) done if you're having a lot of palpitations, and if they occur frequently your doctor might arrange a monitor for you to have at home. This allows you to record when they occur.
Palpitations are usually harmless, but you should not assume that they are due to the menopause unless you have other menopausal symptoms. If they last a long time, are occurring frequently, or are making you feel unwell you should discuss this with your doctor.