Menopause is a natural phase in a woman’s life, signaling the end of the reproductive years. But this doesn’t mean we are washed up! It’s a time to rev up, but sometimes this transition can bring with it a variety of symptoms that can impact a woman’s well-being. One common concern I often hear is heart palpitations and a racing heart, which can be unsettling. Understanding the relationship between menopause and cardiovascular changes, along with proactive strategies, can empower us to navigate this phase with strength and resilience.
Heart Palpitations vs Racing Heart
Heart palpitations and a racing heart are related symptoms, but they are not exactly the same. Both can occur during perimenopause and menopause due to hormonal changes, but they may be perceived differently.
1. Heart Palpitations
– Definition: Palpitations refer to the sensation of feeling your own heartbeat. It may feel like your heart is fluttering, pounding, or beating irregularly.
– Perception: Palpitations are more about the awareness of the heartbeat rather than a significant increase in heart rate.
2. Racing Heart:
– Definition: A racing heart typically implies a noticeable increase in heart rate, where the heart beats faster than usual.
– Perception: Unlike palpitations, racing heart is often about the heart beating at a faster and more intense pace.
In the context of perimenopause and menopause, hormonal fluctuations can contribute to both palpitations and a racing heart. Estrogen, which plays a role in regulating the cardiovascular system, decreases during this time, potentially leading to changes in heart rate and rhythm.
It’s essential to note that individual experiences may vary, and some women may use the terms interchangeably. The difference between palpitations and a racing heart may not always be clear, as both symptoms can be part of a spectrum of cardiovascular changes associated with hormonal shifts.
The Hormonal Rollercoaster: Estrogen and Cardiovascular Health
Estrogen, a key hormone in a woman’s body, plays a crucial role in regulating the cardiovascular system. As menopause approaches, estrogen levels decline, setting the stage for changes that can affect heart function. Here’s how the hormonal fluctuations during menopause can contribute to heart palpitations and a racing heart:
1. Vasomotor Symptoms: Hot flashes and night sweats, common vasomotor symptoms of menopause, can trigger changes in heart rate and contribute to palpitations.
2. Autonomic Nervous System: Estrogen influences the autonomic nervous system, which regulates involuntary functions, including heart rate. A decline in estrogen can disrupt this balance, leading to palpitations.
3. Vascular Changes: Estrogen helps maintain blood vessel elasticity and promotes vasodilation. The decrease in estrogen levels can affect blood vessel function, potentially impacting blood flow and heart rhythm.
4. Vasomotor Symptoms: Hot flashes and night sweats, common symptoms of perimenopause and menopause, can also contribute to heart palpitations. The body’s response to these symptoms, such as increased heart rate and perspiration, can be perceived as palpitations.
5. Anxiety and Stress: Menopausal symptoms, combined with the hormonal changes, can contribute to increased stress and anxiety. Stress and anxiety (whether or not you are in menopause or perimenopause), in turn, can trigger palpitations.
6. Sleep Disturbances: Many women experience sleep disturbances during perimenopause and menopause, which can contribute to stress and fatigue. More often than not, it is due to the stress in our life. Hot flashes also put a monkey wrench into our sleep cycles. Lack of sleep and fatigue can, in turn, exacerbate palpitations. You see, they’re all tied together!
7. Thyroid Function: Abnormalities in thyroid function, such as hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid) or hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid), can affect the cardiovascular system and may be associated with heart palpitations and a racing heart.
Empowering Strategies for Heart Health
1. Consult with a Healthcare Professional: If you’re experiencing heart palpitations, it’s crucial to consult with a healthcare professional for a comprehensive evaluation. They can rule out underlying medical conditions and provide personalized guidance.
2. Consider Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT): In some cases, hormone therapy that includes progesterone, estradiol and/or progesterone may be recommended to address hormonal imbalances. However, the decision should be based on your own unique health profile, and potential risks and benefits should be thoroughly discussed with your doctor. Check out the Find a Menopause Doctor and Menopause Resources for more help.
3. Lifestyle Modifications: Adopting healthy lifestyle habits can have a positive impact on heart health and overall well-being. Consider the following:
– Stress Management: Practices such as meditation, yoga, and deep breathing can help manage stress, reducing the likelihood of palpitations. I would join a class, take a weekend getaway or use an app like Insight Timer to learn and get the basics down. Check out how I manage my menopause stress in a day.
– Regular Exercise: Engaging in regular physical activity supports cardiovascular health and hormonal balance. Find activities that you enjoy and that match your fitness level. I personally like having a well rounded routine that includes strength training, cardio such as HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) or Tabata rounds, and exercises that encourage mobility, flexibility and agility, such as yoga. During more stressful periods of my life, I lean in towards more outdoor walks, yoga and other activities that lower my cortisol levels and reduces the risk of heart palpitations.
– Balanced Diet: A heart-healthy diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats supports overall health.
4. Adequate Sleep: Establish good sleep hygiene practices to promote restful sleep, as fatigue and sleep disturbances can contribute to palpitations. Download this free guide to get started on a good sleep hygiene routine.
5. Stay Hydrated: Ensure you are well-hydrated, as dehydration can sometimes contribute to palpitations.
6. Avoid Triggers: Identify and minimize exposure to factors that may trigger palpitations, such as excessive caffeine or alcohol intake. This includes toxic people in your life.
7. Medication: Certain medications have the potential to trigger heart palpitations or a racing heart (tachycardia) as side effects. Stimulants (e.g. caffeine, weight loss supplements), bronchodilators, antidepressants, antihistamines, corticosteroids and even NSAIDs (e.g. ibuprofen, aspirin) can trigger palpitations. It’s important to note that individual responses to medications can vary, and not everyone will experience these effects. If you are concerned about the impact of a specific medication on your heart health, it is crucial to consult with your healthcare provider.
Embracing Menopause with Heart Health in Mind
Menopause is a unique and individual journey for every woman. By understanding the interplay between hormonal changes and cardiovascular health, women can take proactive steps to manage heart palpitations and embrace this transformative phase. Consult with healthcare professionals, make lifestyle adjustments, and prioritize self-care to navigate menopause with a focus on heart health. Cardiovascular disease, is, after all, the number one killer of men and women worldwide.
Remember, every woman’s experience is unique, and finding what works best for you may require some exploration. Embrace the journey, prioritize your well-being, and empower yourself with the knowledge to make informed decisions about your heart health during menopause.
If you are experiencing either heart palpitations or a racing heart during perimenopause or menopause, it’s crucial to consult with a healthcare professional. They can conduct a thorough evaluation, consider your overall health, and provide guidance on managing symptoms. Lifestyle adjustments, stress management techniques, and, in some cases, medical interventions may be recommended based on the specific circumstances.
Join the Biohacking Menopause membership program or select any of the Hack My Age menopause programs to get more clarity and guidance for your personal situation. Or check out the Freebies page for plenty of free resources.