A palpitating and racing heart is always an uncomfortable feeling. However, it doesn’t always occur due to any underlying heart condition. There are other reasons, too. These include increased stress, immense physical workout, dehydration, fever, reaction to medication, excessive caffeine intake, etc.
Well, if you have had a healthy heart all your life and suddenly start experiencing palpitations when you’ve reached menopausal age, you may be wondering why. You may panic and think that you have a faulty heart. But you’ll be relieved to know that menopause could be the reason for the palpitations. You could blame it on the hormonal imbalance.
So, let’s take a look at the probable causes of palpitations when you are in the perimenopause and menopause stages. We will also learn of the possible symptoms and solutions.
How is Palpitation Related to Perimenopause?
When you have reached the menopausal age, you may often feel that your heart is racing faster than it should. It could even be that your heart missed a beat. Is this the only point of concern, or do you experience other symptoms, too, like hot flashes, vaginal dryness, sleep problems, etc?
If your body is going through a lot of these changes alongside hot flashes, that means you are transitioning into menopause or are in the perimenopause stage. So, heart palpitations could be one of the many symptoms you are going through due to perimenopause.
Like all other symptoms, heart palpitations are also caused by fluctuating and reduced estrogen levels, which overstimulate the heart, leading to palpitations and irregular heartbeats. When the hormones fluctuate, it spikes the heart rate and even increases the frequency of the palpitations.
Studies show that one out of five perimenopausal and postmenopausal women experience palpitations. It was deduced that the prevalence of palpitations was 3.7%-40.2% in premenopausal women, 20.1-40.2% in perimenopausal women, and 15.1-54.1% in postmenopausal women.
Of the five articles included in the studies, three of them showed that perimenopausal women and those experiencing surgical menopause were more susceptible to palpitations.
Palpitations can even occur during hot flashes, where you can experience a racing heart. When in between a hot flash, your heart rate could elevate by 8-16 beats.
There are other reasons for you to experience frequent palpitations other than menopause. These include:
- Increased stress or panic attacks (when the stress hormone triggers the fight or flight response of the body, resulting in palpitations, breathlessness, and chest pain)
- Depression (which causes the brain to undergo structural changes, leading to hormonal fluctuations; this even results in a disturbance of the heart rhythm, triggering palpitations)
- Increased physical exercise (which could bring in a change in the heart’s rhythm and cause palpitations)
- During fever (as that’s when your body begins to use the energy at an increased pace; palpitations may occur when your body temperature rises above 100.4° F.)
- Thyroid problems (often results in abnormal rhythms of the heart, causing palpitations)
What Are the Symptoms of Heart Palpitations?
The most prominent symptom of heart palpitations is how your heart beats, which varies in manner, intensity, and frequency. Your heart will:
- Be racing and beat too fast
- Miss or skip a beat
- Have an extra beat
- Pound increasingly
- Beat in a flip-flop rhythm
If the palpitations are because of a heart problem or any underlying condition, there could be other symptoms, too. These include:
- Pain or discomfort in your chest
- Losing consciousness
- Increased dizziness
- Severe breathlessness
If you encounter any or many of these symptoms, do not delay contacting the health care provider.
Does Menopause Put You At the Risk of Heart Disease?
The BHF (British Heart Foundation) mentions that women are less susceptible to heart diseases than their male counterparts till the time they have entered the menopause phase. However, after menopause, females are more prone to coronary heart diseases and other heart ailments.
The factor responsible for the same is the low estrogen levels, which could raise cholesterol levels and blood pressure, triggering heart disease. It is essential to know that estrogen significantly controls cardiac functions. It prevents inflammation that may lead to plaque buildup in the coronary arteries.
When the estrogen levels fall in the perimenopause and menopause phases, it makes women easily susceptible to heart ailments, especially if they do not maintain a healthy lifestyle.
What are the Solutions to Manage Perimenopause Palpitations?
If you have recurrent episodes of palpitations in menopause, you need to take medical advice at the earliest. However, you also should take good care of your health and maintain a proper lifestyle for sound heart health and to lessen the incidences of palpitation. Here are a few management tips:
1. Cut Down on Caffeine
Caffeine isn’t a good option for perimenopausal and menopausal women as it could aggravate some of the symptoms like hot flashes, sleep problems, and stress. Similarly, increased caffeine intake could also lead to palpitations, more specifically in those with increased caffeine sensitivity. So, in menopause, it would always be safe to reduce caffeine intake and choose healthy drinks like herbal teas. Though most herbal teas lack caffeine, some, like the guayusa and yerba mate, have caffeine. So, when buying herbal teas, it is essential to check the ingredient list for caffeine.
2. Limit Spicy Food
Spicy food is another trigger that intensifies and worsens hot flashes. It also results in heart palpitations by irritating the esophagus and raising the blood pressure and heart rate. So, if you have frequent palpitations and hot flashes, you must eliminate spicy foods from your diet.
3. Remain Stress-Free
When stressed or anxious, your heart could beat faster than usual. Menopause often results in increased anxiety due to estrogen levels and troublesome symptoms like hot flashes and vaginal dryness, which often makes you feel low. However, when you are stressed, your overall health is affected. Stress also triggers palpitations and affects your heart health. That’s why remaining stress-free is of utmost importance. You can practice meditation, yoga, and other relaxation techniques. Also, do things that pleasure you, like reading a book, going out, etc. You can even talk to women in a similar situation as yours over social platforms and share your feelings.
4. Follow a Proper Exercise Regime
Exercise is vital in boosting your overall body functions, including heart health. You could do cardio activities like walking, jogging, biking, swimming, and running. However, when you have palpitations, it is better to avoid exercise until you talk to the doctor.
5. Maintain a Balanced Diet
A healthy diet is another prerequisite for maintaining a good heart and overall health. Include fruits and veggies in your diet. Avoid processed foods and foods containing increased sugar and fat. They could negatively impact your heart health.
6. Quit Smoking
Smoking aggravates symptoms of menopause, like hot flashes and sleep problems. At the same time, it even affects your heart health. The nicotine present in cigarettes raises your heart rate and intensifies your blood pressure levels. This could lead to palpitations. If you already have a rapid heartbeat because of menopause, smoking could worsen things. So, it’s advisable to make a conscious attempt to stop smoking.
7. Limit Your Alcohol Intake
In menopause, a limited alcohol intake is recommended, not more than a drink a day. Increased drinking could exacerbate most of the symptoms, like hot flashes, palpitations, and sleep disturbances.
Healthcare professionals often advise Hormone replacement therapy to cope with the different menopausal symptoms like hot flashes, sleep problems, night sweats, vaginal dryness, etc.
However, if the question is about HRT helping manage palpitations or heart problems, there are speculations. Some women were said to find relief in their palpitations after undergoing hormone replacement therapy.
It is necessary to remember some forms of HRT may elevate the risks of stroke, blood clots, and heart disease. So, if you have a pre-existing heart condition, it is essential to talk to the doctor before going for HRT.
If you have palpitations once in a while that lasts for no more than a couple of seconds, then it isn’t that worrisome.
However, if the palpitations occur frequently and for long, to the extent that they disrupt your daily living activities, a doctor’s consultation is needed. You should even seek medical help when, alongside the palpitations, you experience chest pain or discomfort, breathlessness, or dizziness.
According to research, palpitations are quite common during and after menopause. In perimenopause, around 42% of women suffer from palpitations. Whereas in postmenopause, approximately 54% of women are susceptible to palpitations.
When you go to the doctor for heart palpitations, he will enquire about your age, overall health, and the medications you take (if any) for an underlying condition. He will ask questions like when you first had palpitations and also about the triggers.
The doctor may also ask about the duration of the palpitations and the associated symptoms (if any). The diagnosis depends on the severity of your symptoms. The doctor will examine your heart using a stethoscope. He might advise for tests like echocardiogram, electrocardiogram, or holter.
One out of every four perimenopausal and postmenopausal women might have palpitations. They were mild or disturbing to the extent that they affected their daily lives. Women with stress or insomnia were more prone to palpitations. These are the findings of a study.
If it has been identified that your racing heart is one of the menopausal symptoms you are facing, then there isn’t much to be worried about. It’s temporary and will subside when you have experienced menopause and transitioned into the postmenopause stage.
By making simple lifestyle changes and also seeking prompt advice from the doctor, you will be able to manage it conveniently.