Menopause is something that most women go through. It can occur naturally or be induced by surgery, disease, or medication. Menopause disrupts hormone levels that can cause hot flashes, night sweats, mood swings, and more. Symptoms and experiences are different for all women.
This article examines how menopause is related to heart palpitations, how they are diagnosed, and when to see a healthcare professional.
The words “female” and “women” are used here to refer to people who identify as female and have reproductive organs typical of a cisgender female. We recognize that some people who identify as female do not have the same anatomy as described in this article.
What is menopause?
Menopause occurs when a woman’s menstrual cycle (period) stops permanently for 12 consecutive months. Perimenopause is the period before menopause.
Menopause is usually a natural part of a woman’s life. Sometimes it is caused by surgery, medical treatments, or illnesses. The timing and symptoms vary for each woman.
Menopause causes changes in the ovaries, reproductive system, and endocrine system. The endocrine system is the network of organs and glands that help hormones communicate with each other. It includes thyroid and adrenal hormones, which can be out of balance during menopause.
The female reproductive system includes hormones such as estrogen and progesterone that fluctuate and eventually decline with menopause. These are the hormones needed for fertility or for conceiving a baby. Once a woman has reached menopause, she can no longer become pregnant.
Menopause and heart health
Changing hormone levels are linked to how your heart works, which can lead to heart palpitations.
Heart palpitations feel like your heart is racing, pounding, skipping beats, rolling over, or fluttering. It happens when you feel your heartbeat speeding up, slowing down, or beating irregularly. The sensation may be in your neck, your chest, or both. Heart palpitations can occur with a hot flash and can make you feel anxious.
Heart disease is a term that covers several types of heart disease. These conditions can lead to decreased blood flow, heart attack, or heart failure.
The risk of heart disease increases with menopause due to how hormones affect heart function, body fat distribution, cholesterol levels, blood sugar levels, and blood pressure regulation.
Heart palpitations can also be a heart symptom arrhythmias (irregular heartbeat) such as:
Signs and Symptoms of Menopause
In addition to heart palpitations, other symptoms of menopause include:
- Period changes
- Hot flashes
- Night sweats
- Vaginal dryness
- Dry skin
- Mood swings
- Low libido
- Sleeping troubles
- Urinary incontinence (leakage)
Causes of Heart Palpitations
Heart palpitations occur for a variety of reasons, including stress and arrhythmias (irregular heartbeats). They can occur during menopause due to falling hormone levels. Some women have experienced this during pregnancy or during their period, as estrogen levels fluctuate.
The endocrine system, including thyroid and adrenal hormones, plays a vital role in the heart. It helps regulate heart rate and the amount of blood it pumps. An imbalance in the endocrine system can also lead to heart palpitations and an increased risk of heart disease.
In addition to hormonal changes, heart palpitations can occur due to:
- Caffeine, alcohol, tobacco, or stimulants (like diet pills)
- Thyroid problems
- Low blood pressure
- Overexertion (eg, overtraining)
- heart disease
Diagnosis of menopause is usually made from medical history, symptoms, and menstrual cycles. Although lab tests aren’t usually necessary to diagnose menopause, your healthcare provider may choose to test hormone levels, especially if your period stopped at an early age (before age 40).
It is helpful to write down information when you experience heart palpitations. Your health care provider will most likely ask you when they started, how long they last, what you were doing, and if anything is helping them go away.
Diagnostic tests for heart palpitations
Your healthcare provider can order the following diagnostic tools to assess your heart:
- Electrocardiogram (EKG or EKG): During an ECG, electrodes are placed on your chest to observe the rhythm and electrical activity.
- Holter Monitor: This is a portable machine that you wear for a few days to monitor and record your heart rate.
- echocardiogram: An echocardiogram is a non-invasive ultrasound test that shows the heart as it works.
- Stress test: A stress test examines your heart during exercise, either while you exercise or while you receive a special medicine through an intravenous (IV) line.
- Event Monitor: This is a portable monitor that you wear for a month. You can press the record button when you feel heart palpitations or other symptoms.
When to consult a doctor
Palpitations of a few seconds can be harmless. However, it is best to see your health care provider so they can rule out a more serious condition. This is especially true if you have the following symptoms:
- Palpitations that get worse or occur more often
- Palpitations lasting more than a few minutes
- Palpitations accompanied by weakness
- increased heart rate
- You have risk factors such as high blood pressure
When to Seek Emergency Care
If you experience any of these symptoms along with palpitations, dial 9-1-1:
- Fainting (loss of consciousness)
- breathing problems
- Chest or jaw pain
- Very fast heartbeat (tachycardia)
Menopause is usually a natural part of a woman’s life. However, surgery, medical treatments or diseases can cause premature menopause. Menopause disrupts hormone levels which can lead to heart palpitations. Your health care provider may order noninvasive diagnostic tests such as an echocardiogram or electrocardiogram (EKG or EKG) to see or monitor your heart.
A word from Verywell
Menopause symptoms vary for each woman and can change as the transition progresses. Don’t hesitate to speak with your health care provider if symptoms affect your activities of daily living or if you feel worried.
Infrequent heart palpitations that last a few seconds may not be cause for concern. However, it is important to see your healthcare provider so they can rule out possible underlying health issues.
Frequently Asked Questions
At what age does menopause start?
Perimenopause usually begins when a woman is in her 40s or 50s, with the average age for menopause being 52.
How long does menopause last?
Perimenopause, the period before menopause, can take anywhere from two to eight years. Once you hit menopause (no periods for 12 consecutive months), hot flashes can last another four to ten years.
When should you worry about heart palpitations?
Heart palpitations become more concerning when they last more than a few seconds, are frequent, or worsen. They are an emergency if you have a high heartbeat that won’t slow down, chest pain, fainting, lightheadedness, or shortness of breath.
What do heart palpitations look like?
Heart palpitations feel like your heart is racing, pounding, skipping beats, rolling over, or fluttering.