Have you ever experienced heart palpitations? I’ve never experienced it, but my older sister did. She was alone when her heart unexpectedly started pounding and wouldn’t slow down. She got so scared that she had to call the ambulance for help. Better safe than sorry, right?
Of course, you’d be frightened when your heart suddenly flutters for no apparent reason. I certainly would! My sister stayed at the hospital for a few hours for observation. Her heartbeat did go down and the result came out fine. It’s good to know why this happens so you can prepare if it happens to you.
I know a lot of women out there are experiencing the same symptom. Let´s talk about what heart palpitations are, the causes of heart palpitations in menopause and what can be done to ease them!
What are Heart Palpitations?
Heart palpitations are feelings of your heart fluttering, pounding, skipping beats, beating fast and beating slow. Normally, you don’t feel your heart beating, but when you have a palpitation, you’ll feel like your heart is coming out of your chest. This may or may not be accompanied by a fast heart rate or pulse.
The causes of heart palpitations in menopause are plenty! These include poor lifestyle, unhealthy food choices, stress and anxiety. However, Dr. Northrup also explains that other causes of heart palpitations in menopause are due to hormonal changes. Let’s find out how in the next section!
What are the Causes of Heart Palpitations in Menopause?
About 25% to 40% of women in menopause experience heart palpitations throughout their journey. Experts say that this symptom usually happens as early as perimenopause, but it can also last until the menopause stage. Here’s what happens in the different stages:
During perimenopause, your ovaries start to falter, and hormone production slowly declines. The first hormone to go down is progesterone. Meanwhile, estrogen levels either stay normal or may also fluctuate, but not as much as progesterone. With enough estrogen and lesser progesterone, an imbalance in ratio takes place. This is called estrogen dominance (ED).
So, here’s the thing, when estrogen is properly regulated, and it stays within normal, it takes good care of your heart and blood vessels. With progesterone by its side, it doesn’t overdo its effects and estrogen become your ally in maintaining heart health.
However, in ED, estrogen becomes the boss. Add all the fake estrogens that you’re exposed to every day, from the food you eat to the products you use and the environment you’re in, your estrogen levels shoot up. And with little progesterone to oppose and keep its effects in check, estrogen goes on a rampage.
It will stimulate the release of your stress hormones such as cortisol, adrenaline and norepinephrine. These hormones will tell your body that it’s under threat and to compensate, your body increases heart rate to supply more blood. As an effect, it will also increase blood pressure and lead to heart palpitations.
ED also affects your thyroid immensely by suppressing the release of your thyroid hormones. When this happens, cholesterol in the blood rises and calcification (plaque formation) develops in your arteries, which makes them stiff. Your heart beats slower than usual, which alarms your body and commands your blood vessels to constrict, to save more blood for your vital organs. All these give your heart stress, leading to palpitations.
Menopause to Postmenopause
Menopause and postmenopause are characterized by a decline in your hormones, be it your estrogen, progesterone and testosterone. This too, can have consequences and it includes heart palpitations.
Many people think that it’s the only estrogen that helps in heart health. However, the fact is both estrogen and progesterone offer protection for your heart and blood vessels. Your cardiovascular system may not function optimally if these hormones stay at relatively low levels from menopause to postmenopause.
Aside from the natural shifts in your hormones during menopause, stress and anxiety are also causes of heart palpitations in menopause. Most of us live very busy, stressful lives, and we don’t eat foods that give us enough living nutrients to help our bodies handle stress. Not to mention, we experience so many changes during midlife. It can be in our personal and professional lives, relationships and family dynamic which may leave us feeling anxious and uncertain. All these can cause discomforts like palpitations, panic attacks, feelings of being overwhelmed, inability to handle life, depression and fear.
Dr. Anna Garret also shares that heart palpitations may be caused by increased sensitivities in some foods such as caffeine, refined carbohydrates, aspartame and alcohol, which can overstimulate your heart.
Two of the more unknown causes of heart palpitations in menopause include electrolyte imbalances and insulin resistance (which is common in menopausal women). Here’s Dr. Berg explaining what potassium, sodium, magnesium and calcium have to do with heart palpitations [1:56]:
10 Effective Ways to Solve the Causes of Heart Palpitations in Menopause!
As I said, heart palpitations are highly preventable, and you can even do it yourself. Here are 10 top things you can do to ease and prevent the causes of heart palpitations in menopause!
1. Eliminate food triggers. These include anything with the food compounds I mentioned above. If you can’t take coffee out of your system, how about going decaf? Or, you can replace it with heart-calming teas like chamomile, peppermint, oolong, ginseng, St. John’s Wort and green tea. It would be wise to limit your intake of alcohol too.
2. Eat a balanced diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids. A diet filled with organic fruits and veggies ensures optimum health both in preventing heart palpitations and hormone balance. Omega-3 is one of the best nutrients that helps keep your cardiac muscles in optimum health. It also reduces triglycerides, which increase blood pressure and prevents plaque buildup in your arteries. Some of the best sources of omega-3 include oily fish such as salmon, cod, sardines, halibut and more. Seeds and nuts, especially flax seeds and almonds, are highly rich in this nutrient.
3. Take good care of your body. Get enough rest and sleep. During the day, be sure to take breaks if you need to and get quality sleep of 7 to 9 hours per day. This gives your body time to recover and calm your mind.
4. Do light and relaxing exercise! Yoga, meditation and Pilates are good ways to relax, stretch a bit, improve blood circulation and at the same time, improve heart health and provide you with mental stability.
5. Do deep breathing. Whether you have a panic attack or not, deep breathing is a good practice to integrate into your life. Calming yourself down and taking slow, deep breaths can effectively regulate your heart’s rhythm and trigger the release of your happy and calming hormones such as serotonin and dopamine.
6. Stray away from stimulants. Avoid smoking areas. Nicotine constricts your blood vessels, adding more load to your heart. Asthma medications, cough and nose decongestants are also potent stimulants.
7. Consider taking natural progesterone cream. Natural progesterone cream doesn’t only help your body regulate estrogen and prevent heart palpitations, and it may also solve other accompanying menopause symptoms that are bothering you.
8. Supplement with hawthorn, magnesium, potassium and B-vitamins. Hawthorn is a herb that has proven therapeutic effects on heart health. Magnesium stimulates the production of your sex hormones. Potassium is the heart’s main source of food, while B-vitamins decrease the release of an amino acid called homocysteine. Homocysteine hardens your arteries and puts you at higher risk of stroke and heart diseases.
9. Try acupuncture. Acupuncture has proven effects in correcting heart rhythm irregularities. It also improves blood flow and relaxes the central nervous system, which is often one of the reasons why your heart hyper activates.
10. Avoid anxiety-inducing situations. Although you can’t get rid of these kinds of things entirely, it would help to not put yourself in a scary, violent, or emotional draining situation. Be it dealing with work, people and even everyday things like news, movies and books!
When to Seek Help!
If you experience heart palpitations occasionally and only for a couple of seconds, doctors say they are not necessarily a cause of alarm. However, there are a few instances when you need to see your doctor for proper advice. Visit your doctor if your heart palpitations:
- Occur more often
- Last longer than a minute
- Are accompanied by chest pain, shortness of breath and dizziness
- Get severe over time
- Come with fainting spells
Many people also have mistaken heart palpitations for a serious condition of the heart called atrial fibrillation or AFib. Atrial fibrillation happens when so much electrical impulse is released and your heart contracts very fast and in an irregular manner. Although it’s true that heart palpitations do happen in AFib, it’s not always the case. Here are factors that will help you know if it’s a normal heart palpitation or an AFib palpitation:
- Consider your situation – if you’re in a tense and anxiety-producing situation, it might be just nervousness getting to you. But if you’re lying down or sleeping and you experience heart palpitations with a sharp pain in your chest, then it may be something else.
- Duration – AFib heart palpitations last longer than those caused by anxiety.
- Accompanying discomforts – AFib heart palpitations can come with chest pain, nausea, dizziness, stomach pain and shoulder and nape pain.
- Listen to your heart – heartbeat is super erratic in AFib, while in normal heart palpitation, it beats fast in a steady and regular way.
Here’s a video of Cardiologist Dr. Tracy Stevens as she explains what symptoms to watch out for and when you should worry about heart palpitations:
I’m glad my sister went for a check-up and is now taking care of herself even better than before.
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