The sensation of your heart beating faster than usual can be unsettling but is a common symptom of menopause and usually nothing to worry about. Find out more…
What exactly are palpitations?
They happen when your heart beats faster than normal, usually just for a short period. You may have a fluttery sensation in your chest. In menopause, palpitations quite often accompany a hot flush.
What’s the link between menopause and palpitations?
A drop in oestrogen can lead to the heart being over-stimulated, which in turn can make it race from time to time. Your heart rate may go up by between eight and 16 beats per minute, although for some women, it’s a lot more than this.
Stress, low mood and anxiety can also trigger palpitations, and as a lot of women experience heightened anxiety around menopause, that may contribute, too. It can be a bit of a vicious cycle because the sensation of palpitations itself may make you feel panicky. But as a menopause symptom, palpitations are usually harmless.
"The pounding in your chest is really frightening and I used to feel it in my throat and ears too," says our Community Forum member Kaz. "I only experienced it a few times, but each time I was convinced that I was having a full-blown heart attack. Although my GP told me not to worry, of course I did. When all my tests came back clear, I was convinced they must have missed something."
What you can do to prevent heart palpitations during menopause
Lifestyle changes are key. Here are the main steps that can help:
- Cut caffeine. As you’ll know if you’ve ever overdone the espressos, caffeine can ratchet up your heart rate. Try switching to herbal teas instead. And watch our for chocolate and cocoa, which also contain caffeine.
- Avoid stimulants such as cigarettes and alcohol. They’re known to trigger a faster heart rate.
- Practise relaxation. This can simply mean taking time to unwind each day, perhaps with an uber-relaxing bath soak. Other women swear by yoga, breathing exercises and mindfulness, which is about being very present in the moment and letting go of worries about the past or future. ‘I use mindfulness apps to keep my anxious mind relaxed and under control,’ says Kaz. ‘It makes a huge difference to me, and it also helps me to sleep! I use the Clarity app.’
When to see your doctor about heart palpitation
If lifestyle measures don’t help or palpitations are severe, it’s time to book an appointment. HRT can help a range of unpleasant menopausal symptoms so this may be appropriate for you if you don’t already take it.
It’s also worth seeing your doctor if you’re experiencing a lot of anxiety or symptoms of panic – such as breathlessness and a feeling of terror – alongside your palpitations. Depression, too, may be linked with the raised levels of cortisol that can ramp up your heart rate. You may need specialist treatment, such as talking therapy, to help you.
Your doctor may also want to rule out other conditions. For example, palpitations can indicate a common hearth rhythm disorder called atrial fibrillation, which needs to be treated with medication. You may be referred for investigations to check for this.