Menopause is the “gift” that keeps on giving. With 34 associated symptoms that can easily be ascribed to a myriad of other health conditions, it can be impossible to know if what you’re experiencing is tied to menopause without a hormone test. Each week this series will break down symptoms to empower women to take back control of their health and enjoy some relief.
When Oprah began experiencing intense heart palpitations at age 48, it took FIVE doctors to finally correctly diagnose the issue as menopause-related. Until then, no doctor had bothered to test to see if her hormones were responsible and instead prescribed her heart medication. A stunning fact considering that she is one of the most powerful women in the world with access to the best healthcare.
As many as 40% of women can experience palpitations, otherwise known as arrhythmia, as a symptom of menopause. With that in mind, we’ve broken down the common condition to help alleviate some of the anxiety and fear.
What Causes Menopausal Arrhythmia?
The exact cause of menopausal arrhythmia is unknown, but it is thought to be related to the decline in estrogen levels that occurs during menopause. Estrogen has a protective effect on the heart, so the decline in estrogen levels during menopause can increase heart palpitations. Estrogen also helps to keep blood vessels flexible, so lower levels of estrogen can lead to narrowing and hardening of the arteries, which can also increase the risk of arrhythmia.
How Do I Know My Arrhythmia is Menopause Related?
The most common symptom of menopausal arrhythmia is heart palpitations, which is the feeling that your heart is racing, pounding or skipping a beat - your heart rate increases by 8-16 beats per minute. Thankfully the frightening event is most often short lived, lasting a matter of seconds or minutes.
Other symptoms may include:
What Else Causes Arrhythmia?
Other factors that may contribute to increased heart rate include:
What Are My Treatment Options?
Treatment for menopausal arrhythmia will depend on the severity and any underlying health conditions. In some cases, lifestyle changes, such as quitting smoking, losing weight, reducing stress, eating a healthy diet and exercising regularly, may be enough to control it. Other cases may require medication or other treatments.
If your arrhythmia is more severe or does not respond to lifestyle changes, your doctor may prescribe medication or other treatments like Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT). HRT can help reduce the risk of heart disease and improve cardiovascular health, as well as alleviate the many other symptoms associated with menopause.
When Should I See A Doctor?
It is important to note that not all women who experience menopausal arrhythmia have a serious underlying heart condition. If they occur occasionally and only last for a few seconds, you likely have no need to worry.
However, if they begin to increase in frequency and length, it is important to see a doctor to rule out any underlying problems, as you may have a more serious condition that needs to be treated. Your doctor can do a number of tests to determine the cause of your arrhythmia and recommend appropriate treatment.
Seek emergency medical support immediately if you have these symptoms along with heart palpitations:
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