An irregular heartbeat is a relatively common problem in women going through menopause. The problem is related to fluctuating estrogen levels.
An irregular heartbeat is known medically as heart palpitations. It occurs when the heart beats faster than normal or more forcefully. This might give an unpleasant awareness of your heartbeat and may feel as if your heart is pounding or has skipped a beat.
While irregular heartbeat is normal during menopause, these events may alarm you. And while it is likely nothing to worry about, you should still talk to your doctor if these episodes are frequent or scary enough to cause you concern.
Osteoporosis is a bone disease that weakens your bones and increases your risk of fractures.
The actual cause of it is unknown, but researchers do know there is a connection between osteoporosis and menopause.
The lack of estrogen is directly linked to a decrease in bone density, and the longer a woman is experiencing lower estrogen, the more likely her bone density will be compromised.
Talk to your doctor about your risk factors for osteoporosis and potential ways to preserve bone health.
Treatment for Menopause Symptoms
There are a variety of ways to feel better while you’re experiencing menopausal symptoms.
Certain medications may help in relieving menopause symptoms:
- Hormone replacement therapy helps reduce hot flashes and night sweats. It can also prevent osteoporosis. This therapy is not recommended for people with certain cancers, blood clots, strokes, or liver disease.
- For women who are unable to take hormones to treat hot flashes, blood pressure medications, antiseizure medications, and even antidepressants can help (and they even help with mood swings).
- Topical estrogen can be applied for vaginal dryness.
- Non-prescription medication options include lubricants for vaginal dryness and over-the-counter sleep medications.
Some women do not want to take medications – or want to include a non-medication treatment along with their prescribed medication. Here are some options to try:
- Black cohosh. Black cohosh is a phytoestrogen, meaning that it contains a substance that has a weak estrogen-like effect. Because of this, it may reduce symptoms associated with menopause. Research is mixed, but the side effects are minimal, making it a generally safe supplement.
- Evening primrose oil. This is specifically thought to treat hot flashes, but there is no scientific evidence to support this claim. It has a higher side effect profile and interacts with more medications so check with your physician prior to ingestion of this supplement.
- Other treatments, including acupuncture, chiropractic care, and massage, are not thought to be beneficial – but are also not thought to be harmful, either. If you find benefit or find them pleasant, it is generally thought to be safe to continue.
Do I Have Menopause?
You may want to know, “Am I really menopausal?” Likely your physician will guide you to track your menstrual cycles. As discussed, once you’re menstrual cycle-free for 12 months, you’ll be diagnosed as menopausal.
This can be agonizing. As your periods begin to slow down, you’ll probably note that they become irregular, erratic and that you miss one or two. Then it shows back up again.
It's a frustrating experience.
There are laboratory tests that your physician can run that can help. Drawing the level of the follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) can help to determine your ovarian function. If the FSH level is elevated, your physician will know that the ovaries are beginning to shut down. Once this begins to happen, menopause symptoms are likely to begin to develop.
Seeing Your Doctor
You should be seeing your doctor regularly for preventative healthcare and any medical concerns. Continue going to your appointments before, during, and after menopause. Preventative healthcare should include mammograms and breast and pelvic exams.
You should talk to your doctor about heavy or irregular menstrual bleeding that is abnormal for you, new bleeding between periods, bleeding while you are taking hormone replacement therapy, and any bleeding from your vagina after you have not had a period for at least six months.
Your doctor can also prescribe medications to help you manage some of the symptoms of menopause, including insomnia, hot flashes, mood changes, and vaginal dryness.
It's important to know that you shouldn't be embarrassed about your menopausal experiences and menopause symptoms, and learn to be open to talking with your doctor about any concerns related to menopause or other health worries.
The Bottom Line...
While this is a confusing and intimidating time for you, menopause doesn't define who you are.
During your menopause journey, remember to take your time, don't blame yourself or feel guilty for things that may be out of your control, and let your family know what you're going through and provide simple ways they can support you.