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Living Well

Heart Palpitations: Common in Perimenopause and Menopause

Last updated: Feb 12, 2013


Are you a woman age 35 years or older who sometimes experiences skipped heart beats or a racing heart even when you’re not exerting yourself? Do you sometimes awaken with a racing heart? If you answered yes to either of these questions, you are likely experiencing common symptoms of perimenopause or menopause.

What are heart palpitations?
Palpitations are irregular heart beats that can include skipped beats, extra beats (as many as 8 to 16 beats a minute), and a racing heart (as many as 200 extra beats a minute). Many people suggest that having palpitations makes them "aware of their heart beating."

Women and men can have heart palpitations. In healthy people, they are most common in perimenopausal and menopausal women as a result of fluctuating hormones such as estrogen and progesterone. Some perimenopausal and menopausal women suggest their palpitations occur during or after a hot flash.

"Palpitations usually last only a few seconds to a minute or two," says Summit Medical Group cardiologist Andrew D. Beamer, MD, FACC. "If you have palpitations that are frequent and last for long periods, you should see your cardiologist immediately. Even if your palpitations are associated with perimenopause or menopause," says Dr. Beamer, "there are treatments such as beta blockers that can help reduce their frequency and intensity."

Common causes of heart palpitations include:

  • Alcohol
  • Caffeine
  • Pseudoephedrine, a stimulant in decongestants
  • Dehydration, causing an electrolyte embalance
  • Phentermine, ephedrine, and caffeine in diet pills
  • Emotional stress, which releases adrenaline
  • Hormonal changes
    Hormone replacement therapy (HRT), especially when first beginning treatment
  • Monosodium glutamate in Chinese food, processed foods, canned vegetables, canned soups, and processed meats
  • Nicotine

In most cases, palpitations associated with menopause are not an indication of heart problems. Palpitations often go away after several months, but even they can recur from time to time.

Medical conditions that can cause palpitations and require medical intervention, include:

  • Anemia
  • Heart disease
  • Heart valve Problems
  • Low blood sugar (hypoglycemia)
  • Thyroid conditions

If you have heart palpitations, you can reduce their frequency and intensity by avoiding:

  • Caffeine in soda, coffee, and tea as well as chocolate
  • Smoking and nicotine
  • Diet pills
  • Stress

Although heart palpitations can be disconcerting, remember that most often they are a normal part of aging. Try to remain calm when you have them and focus on your breathing. If you have heart palpitations when you are active, stop what you are doing and sit down or lie down and breathe deeply and slowly through your nose and out your mouth. Your normal heart rate should return within a few minutes. 

If your heart rate is very fast, 
if you are feeling dizzy or faint, or if you feel tightness or pain in the chest or neck,
you should get immediate emergency treatment

For more information
or to schedule an appointment
with Dr. Beamer or another member of our cardiology team,
please call 908-273-4300 today.