Women in perimenopause often report episodes of heart palpitations — an irregular heatbeat or pounding pulse that may make them feel their heart is going to jump right out of their chest.
“The heart palpitations have slowly gone away. The hot flashes have decreased to a manageable level. I am happier, more energetic, and finally sleeping really well.”
Sometimes heart palpitations are accompanied by hot flashes or anxiety, but often not. In many cases the women who suffer these symptoms are understandably worried, and may even be frustrated with the response of their conventional doctor. Here’s what we recommend.
Heart palpitations should be evaluated by your primary care provider
Of course, any recurrent irregular heartbeat warrants a full evaluation by your practitioner, and maybe a visit to a cardiologist, to rule out any abnormalities.
Once they have ruled out any serious underlying condition, women are often told that their symptoms are due to stress or hormone fluctuations. They may be offered prescription drugs. Women tell us that this feels like being dropped with no explanation or suggestion for relief when the doctors can’t find anything wrong with them!
Estrogen dominance may cause arrhythmias
One cause of palpitations may be the rising FSH (follicle stimulating hormone) that accompanies perimenopause, as the body tries hard to stimulate ovulation. The estrogen dominance and progesterone deficiency common to perimenopause probably add to this scenario. In a normal menstrual cycle estrogen begins to rise markedly through the first 14 days of the cycle.
After ovulation, progesterone rises to help prepare the uterus for a potential pregnancy. The progesterone has a calming, relaxing effect and helps in the metabolism of estrogen. But in perimenopause we have more cycles in which we don’t ovulate, so the progesterone level stays low, leading to estrogen dominance.
For some women heart palpitations are a major or early symptom of perimenopause and this progesterone deficiency.
Stress is often a cause of irregular heartbeat
As important as the amount of the stress is whether it is occasional or unremitting. The human body simply isn’t designed for constant stress. When that occurs, our ability to cope with stress can be overwhelmed, a condition known as adrenal fatigue.
If you inventory the sources of stress in your life you may realize that much of it is constant stress. It now seems the norm for women to be "maxed out" in all directions. Most of us work, and the workplace has gotten more demanding. Most of us raise children and help care for aging parents. We often have relationship issues that create stress too. And we are conditioned to put ourselves in last place on the list of priorities.
Restoring hormonal balance often relieves heart palpitations
When you understand the hormonal imbalances that underlie symptoms like palpitations, you can see how natural methods are often the most successful. The natural approach is to give your body more support while trying to reduce the demands you place on it. We strongly advocate a well-rounded program of nutritional supplements, dietary changes and stress reduction. Gentle endocrine support may also be helpful.