The Link Between Menopause and Heart Palpitations

Menopause is something most women go through. It can happen naturally or be induced by surgery, illness, or medications. Menopause disrupts hormone levels which can cause hot flashes, night sweats, mood changes, and more. Symptoms and experiences are different for all women. 

This article reviews how menopause is connected to heart palpitations, how they are diagnosed, and when to see a healthcare provider.

Language Considerations

The words “female” and "women" are used here to refer to people who identify as women and have typical reproductive organs of a cisgender female. We recognize that some people who identify as women do not have the same anatomy as that depicted in this article.

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What Is Menopause?

Menopause occurs when a woman’s menstrual cycle (period) permanently stops for 12 months in a row. Perimenopause is the time leading up to menopause.

Menopause is typically a natural part of a woman's life. Sometimes it is brought on by surgery, medical treatments, or diseases. The timing and symptoms vary for every woman. 

Hormone Levels

Menopause causes changes in the ovaries, reproductive system, and endocrine system. The endocrine system is the network of organs and glands that help hormones talk to each other. It includes the thyroid and adrenal hormones, which can be imbalanced during menopause. 

The female reproductive system includes hormones such as estrogen and progesterone that fluctuate and eventually decrease with menopause. These are the hormones needed for fertility or to conceive a baby. Once a woman has reached menopause, she can no longer get pregnant. 

Menopause and Heart Health

Changing hormone levels have a connection to how your heart works, which can lead to heart palpitations. 

Heart Palpitations

Heart palpitations feel like your heart is racing, pounding, skipping beats, flipping, or fluttering. This happens when you feel your heart rate speeding up, slowing down, or beating irregularly. The sensation can be in your neck, chest, or both. Heart palpitations may occur with a hot flash and can make you feel anxious. 

Heart Disease

Heart disease is a term that covers multiple types of heart conditions. These conditions can lead to decreased blood flow, a 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, and blood pressure regulation. 

Heart palpitations can also be a symptom of heart arrhythmias (irregular heartbeat) such as:

Menopause Signs & Symptoms

In addition to heart palpitations, other menopause symptoms include:

  • Changes in periods
  • Hot flashes
  • Night sweats
  • Vaginal dryness 
  • Dry skin 
  • Forgetfulness
  • Mood swings
  • Low sex drive
  • Trouble sleeping 
  • Urinary incontinence (leakage)
  • Headaches

Causes of Heart Palpitations

Heart palpitations occur for various reasons, including stress and arrhythmias (irregular heartbeats). They may occur during menopause due to dropping levels of hormones. Some women have experienced them during pregnancy or their menstrual period as estrogen levels fluctuated.

The endocrine system, including the thyroid and adrenal hormones, plays a vital role in the heart. It helps regulate the heart rate and the amount of blood it pumps. Imbalance in the endocrine system can also lead to heart palpitations and an increased risk of heart disease.

In addition to hormone level changes, heart palpitations can occur due to:

  • Caffeine, alcohol, tobacco, or stimulants (such as diet pills)
  • Arrhythmias 
  • Thyroid problems
  • Low blood pressure
  • Stress
  • Overexertion (e.g., over-exercising)
  • Medications
  • Heart disease

Diagnosing Menopause

Diagnosing menopause is typically done through a medical history, symptoms, and menstrual cycle patterns. While laboratory tests are not generally necessary to diagnose menopause, your healthcare provider may choose to test hormone levels, especially if your periods stopped at an early age (before 40).

It’s helpful to write down information when you are experiencing heart palpitations. Your healthcare provider will most likely ask you when they started, how long they last, what you were doing, and if anything helps them go away. 

Diagnostic Tests for Heart Palpitations 

Your healthcare provider may order the following diagnostic tools to evaluate your heart:

  • Electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG): During an EKG, electrodes are placed on your chest to look at the rhythm and electrical activity.
  • Holter monitor: This is a portable machine you wear for a few days to monitor and record your heart rhythm. 
  • Echocardiogram: An echocardiogram is a non-invasive ultrasound test that provides a view of the heart as it works.
  • Stress test: A stress test looks at your heart under exertion, either while exercising or receiving a special intravenous (IV) medication.
  • Event monitor: This is a portable monitor you wear for a month. You can hit the record button when feeling heart palpitations or other symptoms.

When to Seek Medical Attention

Palpitations lasting a few seconds may be harmless. However, it’s best to see your healthcare provider so they can rule out a more serious condition. This is especially true if you have the following symptoms:

  • Palpitations that worsen or happen more often
  • Palpitations lasting longer 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 have any of these symptoms with palpitations, call 9-1-1:

  • Dizziness
  • Fainting (losing consciousness)
  • Breathing problems
  • Chest or jaw pain
  • Very rapid heartbeat (tachycardia)

Summary

Menopause is typically a natural part of a woman’s life. However, surgery, medical treatments, or illnesses can cause menopause to happen early. Menopause disrupts hormone levels which can lead to heart palpitations. Your healthcare provider may order non-invasive diagnostic tests such as an echocardiogram or electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG) to view or monitor your heart.

A Word From Verywell

Symptoms of menopause vary for every woman and can change as you move through the transition. Don’t be shy about talking with your healthcare provider if symptoms affect your activities of daily living or you feel worried. 

Infrequent heart palpitations lasting a few seconds may not be a cause for concern. However, it’s important to see your healthcare provider so they can rule out possible underlying health concerns. 

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What age does menopause start?

    Perimenopause usually begins when a woman is in her 40s or 50s, with the average age of menopause being 52 years old. 

  • How long does menopause last?

    Perimenopause, the time leading up to menopause, can take two to eight years. Once you’ve reached menopause (no periods for 12 months in a row), hot flashes can last another four to ten years.

  • When should you worry about heart palpitations?

    Heart palpitations become more concerning when they last longer than a few seconds, are frequent, or worsen. They are an emergency if you have a high heart rate that won’t slow down, chest pain, fainting, dizziness, or shortness of breath. 

  • What do heart palpitations feel like?

    Heart palpitations feel like your heart is racing, pounding, skipping beats, flipping, or fluttering.

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12 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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