Heart Palpitations and Menopause: What Is The Connection?

July 05, 2020.
One of the most significant danger signs for humans is a change in heart rate or pain in your chest. Whether you are speaking in public, worried about a shark swimming near you in the ocean, or getting emotional, heart palpitations often mean something is not right in your body or environment. But what about menopause heart palpitations? Is there something wrong with your cardiovascular system, is your fight-or-flight response overly reactive, or is it just…menopause? Let’s get to the heart of this symptom… (bad pun?)

What Is Menopause?

Menopause is a natural transition that signals the end of a woman’s childbearing years. A woman is considered menopausal when she has not had a period in over 12 months.
As women age, our ovarian function beings to decline, which leads to low estrogen and progesterone levels. Indeed, once menopause is reached, female sex hormones are produced in minimal concentrations – if at all. When estrogen and progesterone are low or fluctuate, it can lead to some intense symptoms, including hot flashes, night sweats, anxiety, depression, difficultly remembering things…and heart palpitations.

What Are Heart Palpitations?

Also called an arrhythmia or irregular heart rate, palpitations are when your heartbeat becomes stronger or starts to race. Whereas you generally are unaware of your average resting heart rate, heart palpitations can catch you by surprise. Characteristics of palpitations include:
  • Skipping beats
  • Rapid fluttering in your chest
  • Fast heartbeat
  • A feeling of flip-flopping
  • Pounding in your chest
Palpitations are usually short in duration and are often a harmless issue. However, in some cases, palpitations may be the result of something more serious such as a severe electrolyte imbalance, a thyroid issue, anxiety or depression, and fever.

What is the connection between heart palpitations and menopause?

We have estrogen receptors all over our bodies, including in our cardiovascular system. While we are still learning about estrogen’s role in the body, we know that estrogen plays an essential role in regulating heart rate, blood clot formation, blood pressure, and controlling HDL and LDL cholesterol. There is also tremendous research around whether declining estrogen levels lead to an increased risk of heart disease in women compared to men.
When it comes to heart palpitations and menopause, this sometimes startling symptom is usually a sign of fluctuating estrogen levels and is generally a typical and expected menopause symptom. And, just like palpitations are associated with changes in estrogen in menopause, women can also experience palpitations in pregnancy and throughout their menstrual cycle.

How To Stop Hormonal Heart Palpitations

Palpitations can be an extremely disruptive symptom of menopause because we can get concerned and anxious when we experience episodes of a pounding heart. It is certainly reasonable for women to seek out information on how to stop heart palpitations. Here are some strategies to reduce the occurrence of this bothersome menopause symptom.
  • Decrease stress by eliminating unnecessary tasks
  • Practice relaxation strategies such as yoga, deep breathing, and mindfulness
  • Eat a balanced diet to avoid any nutritional deficiencies
  • Exercise regularly to keep your cardiovascular system in tip-top shape
  • Limit caffeine intake in drinks such as coffee, soda, and tea as caffeine is a stimulant
  • And speaking of stimulants, cut back or avoid cigarettes and alcohol altogether as they can worsen heart palpitations and increase your risk for cardiovascular disease
  • Hormone replacement therapy can help stabilize estrogen levels which in turn may lower the frequency of menopause heart palpitations

What If Heart Palpitations Are Something Else Besides Menopause?

If your palpitations are infrequent and do not last longer than a few seconds, you likely do not need to be worried. However, it is generally advisable for anyone with palpitations to consult a doctor to rule out any abnormal causes, especially if you are noticing heart palpitations all day or are concerned about your heart condition in general. A good rule of thumb with any symptom is if it worries you or your loved ones, consult your doctor.
Of course, arrhythmias can be severe. If you notice palpitations associated with chest pain or discomfort, severe shortness of breath, severe dizziness, or fainting, you need to seek emergency medical care. These symptoms are often the result of a more serious cardiac condition, including life-threatening arrhythmias and heart attack.
Disclaimer: This is not medical advice, does not take the place of medical advice from your physician, and is not intended to treat or cure any disease. Patients should see a qualified medical provider for assessment and treatment. 

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Julia Walker
perry expert Julia (RN, BSN, BA) is a registered nurse based in Colorado. Julia's nursing background in women’s health has ranged from neonatal and postpartum care to labor and delivery, to outpatient gynecological medicine for both adolescent and adult populations. She specializes in helping women optimize their health during perimenopause and beyond.

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