In this article, we’re going to shine a spotlight on hormonal heart palpitations – a symptom that many women experience during perimenopause and one of the very common menopause symptoms. We’re all clued up on how important heart health is, so these can feel pretty scary. But are your heart palpitations a sign of falling oestrogen (estrogen) levels or is your heart pounding something you should be consulting with your doctor about?
Let's take a look at the link between menopausal symptoms and hormonal chest pain, why women need to be aware of their heart disease risk increase (not only vaginal dryness and hot flashes!) and then provide you with tips and tricks to help you soothe your heart palpitations symptoms.
How do we know when we’re going through menopause?
The menopause transition is the time when menstruation has stopped and periods are absent for up to 12 consecutive months. Post menopausal women have passed the 12 month mark. During menopause hormone levels steadily decline and the lower levels of oestrogen, progesterone and testosterone is why women experience menopause symptoms. These can include poor sleep, mood swings, brain fog, hot flushes, menopausal palpitations and night sweats.
When you have even lower levels of hormones, other menopause symptoms can develop. These can include vaginal dryness, an inability to manage blood sugar as efficiently, blood clots and an increased risk to their heart health.
What are heart palpitations?
The symptoms of heart palpitations vary from person to person, but generally speaking, they’re defined as when your heartbeat feels uncomfortable, or unusual. They can show up in lots of different ways – for some, it may feel like their heart is racing nineteen to the dozen, while others may feel like their heart is missing beats. They experience irregular heartbeats like it's adding in extra beats. Some can feel their heart racing, pounding out of their chest. Some describe a fluttering sensation which replaces their normal rhythm.
Symptoms of menopause and palpitations
Oestrogen levels begin to drop from our early forties before menopause hits in a woman's fifties and experiencing heart palpitations during perimenopause is also common. In fact, oestrogen levels dip before your period comes, which means this is a common time to experience them.
Menopause heart palpitations can happen to women when their periods have stopped and they have a hot flash. Palpitations in menopause can occur at any time of the day or night and a change in heart rate can often be mistakenly associated with stress.
Oestrogen’s got a lot of responsibility on its shoulders when it comes to keeping our bodies in tip-top shape. It affects us from head to toe. Not only does it help our hair grow and keep our skin and bones healthy, our brains and metabolism working, it plays a big part in our heart health and lowers risk factors.
Heart disease and menopause
Before women hit menopause they have a lower risk of coronary artery disease but when oestrogen levels change in their fifties so does their risk of a heart attack. If a woman experiences early menopause in her forties, her risk of heart disease increases due to the drop in protective oestrogen.
Oestrogen helps to keep heart health optimal by keeping the arteries flexible so they can transport enough blood and oxygen to the heart. It helps to keep cholesterol levels low and arteries clear of a build up of fatty plaque.
If this builds up around our heart and blood vessels pressure increases. High pressure can damage artery walls, can be a symptom of an underlying heart disease, which increases your risk of a heart attack or a stroke.
More than 14 million adults in the UK have high blood pressure. According to the British Heart Foundation, Women are twice as likely to die of coronary heart disease, the main cause of heart attack, as breast cancer in the UK. Symptoms of a heart attack can include heart palpitations, breathlessness and chest pain. It's important to keep up with blood tests when your doctor requests them.
Lifestyle changes to manage menopausal heart palpitations
Heart palpitations is one of the most worrying symptoms of menopause but there are lifestyle changes you can make to help Here are three for starters to help you manage heart palpitations
Hormone Replacement Therapy
Menopausal symptom treatment options include HRT. There’s lots of evidence that using hormone replacement therapy HRT helps to keep your heart healthy following menopause. Women’s Health Concern reported that hormone therapy reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease when started in the early menopausal years, so if it’s something you’re considering, it’s worth speaking to your doctor about it as soon as you can.
Learn to recognise and manage anxiety, reduce stress
Anxiety and palpitations can be a bit of a catch-22 situation – if you’re anxious about palpitations they can just cause them to become worse, so it’s really important to know how to beat hormonal anxiety.
Everyone’s different when it comes to putting anxiety in its place, but breathing and relaxation techniques, prioritising sleep, meditation, and even herbal teas can be helpful tools to manage menopause anxiety. It’s also important to not underestimate the importance of taking time out for yourself – time to think through worries or take time off from them for a few hours. Did someone say spa day?
Exercise for low blood pressure
Achieving low blood pressure to decrease your heart health risk can be achieved by exercising regularly and keeping your weight in check. Less active people have a higher risk of high blood pressure. We know it's easy to spend way too much time being inactive due to work and other commitments but being active as you age is crucial. Other menopausal symptoms like joint pain can also be managed this way.
Blood pressure often increases when weight does. Walking is a great way to decrease the extra pounds while a more vigorous pace can help to get the heart pumping and keep the arteries flexible.
Decrease your alcohol and caffeine intake
It's easy it is to reach for a G&T when you’re feeling down or anxious. But alcohol is known to make heart palpitations worse and increase blood pressure so it’s best to reduce your alcohol intake where you can. The same applies to caffeine – a constant flow of coffee or energy drinks are not going to help reduce your symptoms either. Ditch your daily latte and pick up a peppermint tea instead, and you should see a difference in your heart palpitations.
Look after your liver
Oestrogen levels can spike by up to 30% as well as drop during perimenopause. During menopause women can swing in and out of one hormone being dominant and the body needs to try balance them out. It’s up to your liver to process and get rid of excess hormones. Drinking more than you should puts extra pressure on an already stressed organ trying to do its best to look after you. In short - ease up on the alcohol!
Limit your sugar intake
Your blood sugar levels play a role, too. Once you’ve eaten sugary food, it causes a chain reaction, which leads to your blood sugar dipping, causing adrenaline to be released around your body. Adrenaline’s guilty of speeding up your heart rate, so it’s best to avoid eating food loaded with sugar where you can. With less oestrogen to keep your cholesterol levels in check it is also wise to watch how much saturated fat you're eating.
Talking to your doctor about menopause symptoms
Menopause heart palpitations can be super stressful, and worrying about them can make them worse, so it’s best to speak to your doctor if you’re concerned. It is also important to seek medical advice if your palpitations come with other symptoms, such as chest pain, shortness of breath, or feeling faint or fainting.
You should also contact your doctor if your palpitations keep coming back, last for some time longer than five minutes, or if you or anyone in your family has a history of heart problems. Check out the NHS website for more information.
The bottom line
Womens health can decline in menopause and their risk of having a heart attack can increase with weight gain, higher cholesterol levels andsnarrower arteries. We’ve learned about why irregular heartbeats can occur, the link between hormones, menopause and heart palpitations. We’ve gone through a few top tips when it comes to reducing heart palpitations, and highlighted when it’s time to seek out professional medical advice. Going through menopause can be daunting, but with a few changes to your diet and lifestyle and considering HRT you could be feeling a lot better within a few months.