Heart Palpitations in Menopause: Should You Worry?

Of all the symptoms of menopause, heart palpitations are one of the lesser-known symptoms. Women will often experience heart palpitations during hot flashes, another symptom of menopause.

Heart palpitations can cause concern and lead to anxiety and even panic attacks. However, most heart palpitations caused by menopause are temporary and will go away once menopause is complete and your hormones have leveled out.

What are heart palpitations?

Heart palpitations occur when your heart beats irregularly, skips a beat, or adds a beat. They are commonly described as a pounding or fluttering sensation in the chest; or as if your heart is flipping, skipping beats, or about to jump out of your chest. You may feel them in your chest or your neck, or both. Some people have them, and never notice them; others can have such strong palpitations it can be painful.

A variety of things can cause heart palpitations, menopause being one of them.

What is menopause?

Menopause is the time in a woman's life when her period stops. Changes slowly occur in the reproductive and endocrine systems until, eventually, the menses stop entirely. Generally, this is the result of the normal life cycle; but it can be brought about by surgery, certain medical treatments, or diseases that affect the natural hormones.

The timing and symptoms of menopause vary greatly from person to person, and your symptoms may change as you progress through menopause. Talk to your doctor about any questions or concerns regarding any of the symptoms or changes you experience during menopause.

Can menopause cause heart palpitations?

Heart palpitations are caused by many different things, many of which are harmless. Fluctuations in the hormone estrogen during your period, pregnancy, and menopause are some of the things that may cause heart palpitations.

Estrogen levels affect the blood vessels, breathing, and the functioning of the heart muscle itself. These hormonal changes that occur during menopause can lead to changes in the way your heart works, which may cause palpitations. The lower estrogen levels or rapid fluctuations can lead to overstimulation of the heart, leading to a faster heart rate and arrhythmias. Lower estrogen levels in perimenopause (the time of life leading to menopause) can lead to increased blood pressure, which puts more stress and strain on the entire body, which could lead to heart palpitations.

Other things that can lead to heart palpitations include:

  • Caffeine or stimulants
  • Certain medications, such as cough or cold medicine, asthma inhalers, or thyroid medicine
  • Overexerting yourself, such as while exercising
  • Alcohol or tobacco
  • Low blood pressure
  • Low blood sugar
  • Dehydration
  • Fever
  • Heart arrhythmias
  • Heart disease
  • Stress
  • Thyroid problems

Are heart palpitations dangerous?

Heart palpitations that result from lower estrogen levels are usually harmless, but you may need to see your doctor to be sure. Changes in hormone levels during menopause can also lead to changes that can increase your risk for heart disease. Heart palpitations can indicate a heart arrhythmia resulting from heart disease.

Talk to your doctor if your palpitations increase in frequency or strength, become uncomfortable, or are accompanied by dizziness or difficulty breathing.

Your doctor may want to run some blood tests to see if you are starting menopause; they may prescribe hormone replacement therapy (HRT), or they may want to do further tests on your heart, such as an electrocardiogram (EKG or ECG), stress test, or some other test to check your heart health.

What can I do about heart palpitations?

Diet and lifestyle changes may reduce the number or frequency of palpitations you experience.

  1. Eat a healthy, balanced diet full of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, low-fat dairy products, and fish.
  2. Avoid excess fats, cholesterol, sugar, or salt.
  3. Exercise at least 30 minutes most days of the week.
  4. Learn stress management techniques.
  5. Maintain a healthy weight.
  6. Decrease your intake of caffeine and other stimulants.
  7. Do not smoke.
  8. Try a Valsalva maneuver.
  9. Drink plenty of water and other hydrating fluids to keep your electrolytes in balance.
  10. Manage your blood pressure and blood sugar.
  11. Ask your doctor about hormone replacement therapy (HRT) or natural home remedies to help with the symptoms of menopause.

What other symptoms might I have?

If your heart palpitations are a symptom of your menopause, they may be accompanied by other symptoms, including:

  • Changes in your period
  • Dry skin and hair
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Urinary incontinence or leakage
  • Vaginal dryness
  • Low sex drive
  • Anxiety
  • Forgetfulness
  • Headaches
  • Hot flashes
  • Mood swings
  • Night sweats

When should I call my doctor?

If your palpitations last longer than a few seconds at a time; become more frequent; are accompanied by weakness, headaches, or chest discomfort; or if you are at risk for heart disease, call your doctor.

Call 911 if you have chest pressure, trouble breathing, dizziness, fainting, chest or jaw pain, or a very rapid heart rate with heart palpitations.

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