There are many songs that wax lyrical about your heart skipping a beat when you’re a giddy kipper in love…
But what if you aren’t feeling at all romantic and your heart is missing some beats or randomly chucking in a few extra. Or, more worryingly, racing away like you’ve just completed the grand national without a horse?
What’s going on? Why do you get palpitations in menopause? (The medical term for irregular heartbeats).
Well, when your heart is racing, fluttering or feeling like it is pounding through your chest, it’s because your hormones are also jumping about.
Fluctuating levels of oestrogen and progesterone can affect a host of bodily functions in the perimenopause and menopause – including your cardiovascular system.
You may find your heart goes a bit wonky during or after a hot flush.
Or it could happen randomly. You could have skipped beats, extra beats, and a racing heart.
Or perhaps you’re just suddenly aware of your heartbeat, in a way you haven’t been before?
We know, anything to do with your heart can scare the pants off you. But instead of panicking and packing a hospital bag, or alternatively ignoring your symptoms and hoping they will go away, please do work through our list of suggestions.
WHAT’S UP DOC?
Don’t worry, in most cases you won’t suddenly become a star on the set of 24 Hours in A&E. Palpitations are usually harmless. Most will only last for a couple of minutes, and frequent bouts will dissipate after a few months, then only popping up from time to time.
Whatever’s happening, your symptoms should not be ignored. If you have an irregular heartbeat, then absolutely go and see your doctor. Particularly if you are short of breath, dizzy or have any chest pain when your heart decides to go wonky.
Your medical professional can then check for any abnormalities and reassure you or pave the way to you getting some help. For example, medication like beta blockers prescribed by your doctor can help reduce the frequency and intensity of palpitations.
It’s recommended that adults reduce or stop their caffeine intake. So be aware – when your heart is going wonky, you don’t need to add this stimulant to the mix. That will only exacerbate your symptoms.
Yes, sadly, it’s not just about switching to a decaf latte. Tea also has caffeine in it, half the amount of filter coffee, but still consider cutting down your number of cuppas in a day if you don’t want to decaffeinate your daily brew.
Caffeine also smuggles its way into other beverages like fizzy and energy drinks and foods like chocolate. And it may surprise you that even the ‘healthy option’ of a 100g bar of dark chocolate contains 43mg of caffeine. (As chocolate gets darker, it is packed with more cocoa solids, and therefore more caffeine).
It might be worth keeping a log and finding out just how much caffeine you are consuming.
BREATHE IN, BREATHE OUT
It might seem obvious but finding new ways to relax can help calm an irregular heartbeat.
Decrease your stress levels and restore your heart’s natural rhythm by meditating, deep breathing, writing in a journal, spending time outdoors, and exercising (things like yoga and tai chi are excellent decompressors).
DRINK A LOT
Nope, we’re not suggesting you up your gin intake. It would be far more beneficial to chug back more water.
When you’re dehydrated, your heart has to work even harder to move blood around your body. This can cause heart palpitations. So get a litre bottle and try to finish it in the morning and refill it for the afternoon. Another helpful tip is to have a glass of water before any other drink.
HINTS AND TIPS FOR THOSE WHO WANT TO SUPPORT SOMEONE THEY THINK MAY BE ENTERING OR IN MENOPAUSE
The key with an irregular heartbeat is not to panic. Chances are they are doing enough panicking for both of you. Instead, take a breath and put these bits of advice to use.
OUR ADVICE TO THEM
In terms of self-care, we’ve recommended that they avoid caffeine, and eat foods packed with calcium, magnesium and potassium. Keeping hydrated helps too.
ASK THEM TO EXPLAIN
Don’t assume you know what they feel like – having a wonky heartbeat can be incredibly scary. Gently ask them to explain the effect it is having on them physically and emotionally.
You may not be able to do anything to make them feel better. But they may not want answers, they may just need to talk – and be properly heard. Switch your listening ears on and give them your full attention.
ENCOURAGE HER TO SPEAK TO A DOCTOR
If their heart palpitations have been going on a while or seem to be getting worse, gently encourage them to speak to a GP.
You could even offer to go to the appointment with them to show your support.
Keeping your heart and cardiovascular system in check during the perimenopause and menopause is vital.
Combining something you want to do (spend time together) along with something you need to do (exercise) can be a real game changer.
Partnering up to go for a walk, swim or to the gym is also more likely to help you both stay motivated. NOTE – Exercise induced palpitations should always be discussed with your doctor.
CREATE BREATHING SPACE
Slow, deep breaths initiate the parasympathetic nervous system, which has a calming effect and can help restore the heart’s rhythm. Taking time together to practice and improve your breathing means you’re more likely to keep up with it.
Yoga and meditation are both great, and there are loads of ‘how to’ videos and mindfulness apps like Headspace which mean you can practice from the comfort of your living room.
If you’re worried about heart palpitations, you should see your GP who can discuss your symptoms in the context of the menopause.
If you'd like more information, we have put some further references below for you.