Are Heart Palpitations and Menopause Connected?
My friend has been really unlucky with her menopause experience. She started exhibiting symptoms years ago and now, well into her 50s, is still not done. And what does she consider the worst symptom of her menopause? Palpitations.
I have been lucky and not suffered this, but some people do and can find them quite distressing – especially if they don't realize they can be menopause related. Some women also endure panic attacks and more generalized anxiety which is not helped by the worry about a frighteningly fluttering heart. Add to this an unsympathetic doctor who thinks they are dealing with psychosomatic symptoms and you can end up with a very unhappy woman.
In fact, heart palpitations can be caused by our old friend progesterone. Falling levels of this hormone can cause anxiety, tension headaches, digestive issues, palpitations or even full-blown panic attacks which can lead some people to become almost agoraphobic or unable to work.
What are Palpitations?
Let's focus on palpitations. What are they? Well my friend says she feels like her heart is racing, while other people report feeling as if their heart is fluttering, skipping a beat every now and then. Some people say they simply can feel their heart beating while others report they can feel extra beats.
Palpitations are all of these - the heart can beat anything from an extra 16 to 200 beats a minute, or can skip a beat every now and then. Usually if they are being caused by oestrogen dominance the sensation should last only a few seconds or a minute or two, and many women report it's most common during a hot flash.
In the case of menopause-related palpitations, the heart issues may be being triggered by HRT (Hormone Replacement Therapy) or hormone imbalance. There's a lose/lose situation right there!
Other Causes of Palpitations
- Food additives, particularly MSG (Monosodium Glutamate) often found in Chinese takeaway dishes and processed food
- Pseudoephidrine in decongestants
- Some ingredients in diet pills
- Rich or spicy food
- Recreational drugs, and
- Any activity which releases adrenalin.
There are also medical conditions aside from perimenopause or menopause which can cause palpitations – anemia, heart disease and heart valve problems, low blood sugar and thyroid conditions, to name just a few.
With that long list of things that can cause palpitations it's a wonder we don't all suffer from them!
It's important to rule out serious illnesses that might be causing your particular issues, so it's worth mentioning them to your healthcare provider even if you are fairly sure they are hormone related.
Most doctors would order an ECG (electrocardiogram) which will assess heart rate and rhythm. The ECG may of course give normal results unless you actually experience palpitations during the test, but your doctor should follow up with other tests to ensure your symptoms are not being caused by a more serious underlying condition.