It may be a flutter, or feel like it is about to explode! It may be so slight that you hardly notice it or it may be beating like a drum! That's your heart on palpitations during perimenopause. And it was one of the most unnerving things during my journey. The more anxious I got about them, the worse they seemed!
I made several trips to my doctor, finally asked for an EKG and no one mentioned it could be menopause related. I made John drive me to the fire station in our neighborhood to get checked out, I even had my colleague call her firefighter husband to stop by our office and take my blood pressure. No one mentioned menopause! Girlfriend, it was so scary! I had no idea hormone fluctuations could do that to a girl! But finally thanks to Google and a new doctor I got some answers.
The good news is, as with most things during perimenopause, heart palpitations are usually not serious and tend to subside when you are post menopause. (P.S. always talk to your doctor when your hearts involved, seek immediate attention if you have pain in your arms, shortness of breath, chest pain)
Are you curious about why they happen and how to lessen the drama of them? Read on , sister!
What Causes Palpitations During The Menopause Journey?
The exact cause is unclear, however, research suggests heart palpitations are caused by fluctuating hormones, estrogen and progesterone, as it is with most of the things we experience at this time. Also, sleep problems, high stress levels and mood swings can contribute to heart symptoms. Hot flashes or night sweats can also increase your heart rate, because they mess with your autonomic control of your heart rate. Then there is the anxiety about the hot flushes and the heart palpitations, a vicious cycle! And for most of us, we've got all of the above going on! PHEW!
Four Things YOU Can Do If Your Hearts Thumping and Racing
1. Decrease caffeine and alcohol consumption and drink more water. It is important that you stay hydrated, especially if you're sweating more (thanks hot flushes and night sweats). Also, it can be helpful to drink a glass of water when you feel the hot flush coming on.
2. Boost your nutrients. Low magnesium and an imbalance of sodium and potassium can cause heart palpitations. Ask your doctor if this might be an issue for you. I added a magnesium supplement to my daily supplements. Also, eating often and avoiding big dips in blood sugar might help as well.
3. If you don't already, practice relaxation techniques such as yoga, mindfulness and breathing practices. One of my favorite breath practices is Equal Breath. Breath in for a count of 4, then out for a count of 4. Once you are comfortable with 4, increase to a count of 5 or 6. I also love a few deep inhales with a soft, slow open mouth exhale.
4. See your doctor. Discuss what's going on. Ask for an EKG. When I found out my heart looked normal, I felt a sense of relief. Then when my palpitations came, I was less anxious. I could reassure myself they would pass.
Heart Disease and Menopause
OK, let's get really serious for a moment; heart disease is the leading killer of postmenopausal women. That could be partly because women's symptoms are often minimized as compared to men's. So ladies, it is vital to do everything possible to keep your heart healthy. AND to be diligent when you sense something isn't "right".
There is an enormous amount of data that links nutrition and heart disease and that is something you can control. So avoiding highly processed carbohydrates and increasing your protein is a great idea. Also consider eating anti inflammatory foods like berries and tuna on a regular basis.
Movement and weight bearing exercise is also very helpful. They increase lean muscle mass and lower insulin resistance dramatically and both lower the risk of heart disease. Women who do such exercise live on an average of six years longer than those that don't! ("Women's Bodies, Women's Wisdom", Christiane Northrup, M.D.)
So, exhale, friend. What your are experiencing is probably a normal and temporary event of your menopause journey. However, a trip to your doctor, may give you peace of mind. Whatever is going on with you, remember, Menopause is a normal event in a woman's life. You are in control. Check out these resources from the NAMS.
Registered Yoga Teacher, Menopause Doula, health and wellness explorer, self care expert focused on empowering women over forty with tools for loving the midlife journey