Menopause can bring a whole new set of anxieties: weight, flushes, stress and cancer. What most women don’t see as a major concern is heart health and yet palpitations can be a frequent, but happily and often temporary, symptom at this time.
What are heart palpitations?
During a palpitation, the heart may pound, flutter, race, or beat irregularly and they often short-lived, lasting just a few seconds or, at worse, a few minutes.
They are also called irregular heartbeats or arrhythmia, meaning heartbeats that are suddenly more noticeable than regular heartbeats.
Palpitations may seem alarming, but they are often harmless and do not signal a serious problem, necessarily. However, you should still see a doctor if they occur.
Causes of menopause heart palpitations
Heart palpitations can occur for a variety of reasons including:
- lifestyle triggers
- emotions and psychological triggers
- hormone changes
- heart rhythm problems
- heart conditions
- other medical conditions
Common triggers of heart palpitations include:
- strenuous exercise
- not getting enough sleep
- drinks containing caffeine
- illegal drugs, such as cocaine, heroin, amphetamines, ecstasy and cannabis
- rich or spicy foods
In these cases, the palpitations should go away on their own. Avoiding these triggers may help stop them coming back.
Emotional or psychological triggers
Heart palpitations are also often caused by emotions or psychological issues, such as:
- excitement or nervousness
- stress or anxiety
- panic attacks
- trembling and palpitations
Breathing exercises and panic attack tips may help if you’re feeling stressed, anxious or panicky.
Palpitations can occasionally be triggered by some types of asthma inhalers, high blood pressure medicines, antihistamines, antibiotics, antidepressants, and antifungal medicines.
Speak to your GP if you think medication may be causing your palpitations. But don’t stop taking a prescribed treatment without first getting medical advice.
Heart palpitations in women can sometimes be the result of hormonal changes that occur throughout life from PMS, pregnancy and peri/menopause.
According to the British Heart Foundation (BHF), women, in general, have a lower risk of being affected by coronary heart disease (CHD) before the menopause. Afterward, the risk of CHD increases and continues to rise.
At menopause it is linked to the rapidly dropping hormone levels and there can be an increase in both heart rate and frequency in palpitations, and non-threatening arrhythmias.
Menopause heart palpitations can increase heart rates by 8 to 16 beats per minute. Some women, however, have reported much bigger increases, with their heart rates reaching up to 200 beats per minute.
Menopausal women who experience irregular heartbeat are often treated using natural methods. When the problems are caused by reduced levels of oestrogen, the treatment can involve lifestyle changes and natural remedies combined.
In the past, it was thought that HRT had the added benefit of helping to protect women against CHD. However, more recent research suggests that this is not so.
Also, the BHF maintain that some forms of HRT may slightly increase the risk of CAD and stroke.
Likewise, the same therapies can increase the risk of deep vein thrombosis (DVT) and pulmonary embolism (PE). This is particularly the case in the first year of taking HRT.
When to see a doctor
While such palpitations are usually harmless, they should not be ignored so see your doctor for a diagnosis, and to rule out any abnormalities.
Doctors will particularly want to investigate if the palpitations are linked to a shortness of breath, dizziness, or chest discomfort.
A few lifestyle changes may help to cut down the occurrence of menopausal palpitations. They include:
- reducing caffeine intake by drinking less coffee and other caffeine-heavy drinks
cutting back or avoiding stimulants, such as cigarettes and alcohol
- practicing relaxation techniques, such as yoga, mindfulness, and breathing exercises
- Heart disease risk and menopause
How to help yourself
Heart disease risk goes up for everyone, as they get older. But for women, there is a marked increase after menopause. Hence, it is vital to do everything possible to keep the heart healthy.
Good nutrition has an important part to play here. Eating plenty of fruits, vegetables, fish, and poultry are all good. People should also avoid putting on excess weight, as it can add strain to the heart and help push up blood pressure.
However, there is more to keeping healthy than just nutrition and maintaining a healthy weight. Hormone balance is important too so make sure you deal with menopause symptoms to maintain good health at menopause, and post menopause too.
If you want to know more about a heart healthy diet, or more about the risks heart disease these articles will be helpful.
Heart Healthy Foods
Increased Heart Disease Risk Link to Body Fat, Not Weight