Palpitations: A Message from Your Midlife Heart

2/1/12 at 1:00 AM | 44 Comments

There’s no question that heart palpitations at menopause are related to changing hormones. However, my experience has been that in many midlife women, heart palpitations are primarily from increasing heart energy trying to get in and be embodied in a woman’s life. At midlife our hearts and bodies often become increasingly sensitive to those things that don’t serve us, including caffeine, refined carbohydrates, aspartame, alcohol, or monosodium glutamate, all of which may overstimulate our hearts. You also might need to avoid scary, violent, or emotionally draining news, movies, books, or individuals. Your heart may also be telling you it’s time to pay attention to your deepest desires or what your heart is longing to express.

The following letter from Terri, one of my e-letter subscribers, is typical of how midlife heart palpitations are often present.

I am a forty-eight-year-old female with no major health problems. I do not take any prescription medicine. I walk five times a week and go to the gym about twice a week to do some light weight lifting. My periods are still fairly regular. I have a fairly healthy diet, although it could be better. I drink about a cup of coffee a day, but usually don’t drink soft drinks. About a month ago, after a fatty fast-food meal and a large cup of coffee in the early evening, I started experiencing heart irregularities. I felt like my heart was skipping a beat and was going to beat out of my chest!

This went on for a couple of days and I went to see my doctor. She did an EKG, which was slightly abnormal, and scheduled me for a stress echocardiogram and Holter monitor. Of course, by the time I had these tests, the palpitations had stopped and the results were normal. Then about a week later, they started again.

I have cut out drinking coffee and started doing more yoga. I have also started taking more magnesium, in addition to my multivitamins. I have monitored what is going on with my life and I can’t seem to find any pattern to when these occur. Most nights when I lie down in bed they usually start up, especially when I lie on my left side. My doctor wants to start me on a low dose of a beta- blocker. I told her I would like to start using natural progesterone cream routinely for a couple of months because I feel these palpitations may be related to hormonal changes.

I would really like to avoid taking heart medications. However, these palpitations can interrupt my sleep and are very uncomfortable. Are these palpitations hormonally related?

My suggestion to Terri was that she go through the program for creating heart health I outline in the chapter “Living With Heart, Passion, and Joy” in the revised edition of The Wisdom of Menopause. Her midlife heart is obviously becoming very sensitive, alerting her to the need to balance freedom and connection and also to nourish her heart fully. I concur with her intuitive desire to start on some natural progesterone as a way to balance potential estrogen dominance. (Note: Natural progesterone is not the same as Provera. Provera is a man-made form of progesterone, and studies have shown this synthetic hormone can harm the heart.) Besides, progesterone is known to be very calming to the nervous system. It may well help her with sleeping. In addition, her heart is telling her to stop drinking caffeine. The caffeine in one cup of coffee can take up to ten hours to be metabolized in women, so it exerts a stimulatory effect on the central nervous system and the nerves of the heart for quite some time. For many women, heart palpitations stop as soon as they begin to take progesterone cream or estrogen, stop caffeine, and also normalize blood sugar and insulin levels through dietary change.

But it’s also important to find out what your heart is yearning for. One of my patients with heart palpitations found that they stopped soon after she asked for a promotion at work, something she hadn’t had the courage to do before. She got the promotion and finds her work more fulfilling than ever. Her heart no longer has to speak so loudly. 

What kinds of messages have you received from your heart? What steps have you taken to honor those messages? Please leave me a comment and let me know.

(Comments are not posted immediately, however, are typically visible 3-36 hours after you enter them.)

Adapted with permission from The Wisdom of Menopause (Random House, 2012).

FILED UNDER: palpitations, heart health, progesterone, hormone, wisdom of menopause


I'm a youthful 59. Six years ago, out of the blue, I had PSVT while away from home--my heart rate shot up to 244 beats a minute. Eleven months later it happened again; Without warning it shot up to 245 beats per minute.In the years since, I've adopted mentors such as Dr. Northrup, Cheryl Richardson, and Louise Hay and have learned to love and listen to my heart.. no more SVT.

by Vikki H on 2/1/12 at 10:37 AM

Thank you for helping and guiding women to feel better and be who we really are from the heart out.

by Leslie on 2/1/12 at 11:28 AM

I noticed that my palpitations are because I give energy to that which does not serve me. I confused it with needing to "run" from a situation when I really need to "sit" with the situation. Now, when my heart starts beating fast I know that it's an early sign that I have lost my's just like a GPS that constantly nags at you until you get back on the correct path and isn't that great to be wired so perfectly!

by Delphine on 2/1/12 at 11:43 AM

I an 57 and I started having palpitations as many menopausal women do. I had all the tests and was told I would have to live with it. Being an ICU nurse as well as an athlete I found this advice less than acceptable. I have been on bio identical hormones for 7 years and when this starts I just up my estrogen and they stop. I haven't had any for quite some time.

by Leslie on 2/1/12 at 11:43 AM

Wow- the universe is a little scary at times! I’m 47yrs old and have been feeling a flutter at the base of my throat. After reading this article and having a good cry, I realized my body is telling me I need to find my voice; to speak/write my own thoughts, not push them down. I am doing an MA at University and have really struggled to write for fear of being wrong. I see now I need to believe in my own self worth and find the courage to speak from my heart and head – seems so obvious now! LOL

by Kerrie Pickering on 2/1/12 at 11:50 AM


by JUDE on 2/1/12 at 11:59 AM

I'm sixty nine years old, do not take hormones, my health is good, recently had an ekg for what I described a fluttering of humming sound from my heart, the EKG is fine.

by alice on 2/1/12 at 12:03 PM

Dr. Northrup, My mother died of heart disease at the age of 75. I believe her heart was yearning for a better life. Although she gave me more riches in love than all the money I have earned. Dr Northrup, Thank you for giving yourself to the world!

by Constance on 2/1/12 at 12:07 PM

Hi there - I also have heart palpitations like you describe. I found out last year that I had severe anaemia due to heavy menstrual periods and have had iron infusions and blood transfusions to "top me up" . The palpitations to me are a sign that my haemoglobin is dropping, have you had a complete blood count? Just a thought.

by Danna Burton on 2/1/12 at 1:16 PM

Hello, I had bad heart palpiations, tachycardia, and arrthymia in 2010. ProG cream, extra magnesium, and addressing yearnings helped, but not completely. My MD put me on Taurine (an amino acid available in capsules at health food stores). All the symptoms rapidly disappeared. My MD advises to take Taurine in irregular doses, so the heart doesn't depend on it. eg. 1 capsule on Sunday, 2 on Mon, 3 on Tue, 2 on Wed, 1 on Thu, and none Friday/Sat.

by Carole on 2/1/12 at 1:43 PM

I was 42-years old when I hit perimenopause. I, too, had heart palpitations for a short period of time. Stress was the most important area for me that needed treatment. Once I understood this disease causing word… “Stress”, I made changes and am happy to report perimeopause became a whole lot easier.

by Denise on 2/1/12 at 2:02 PM

My mother is 85 and had heart palpatations for 2 days, recently we found out she is anemic, are heart palpatations related to anemia? Thank you for your thoughts.

by Beckie on 2/1/12 at 2:38 PM

I had palpitations when my youngest daughter left for the Philippines. It was the final emotional tipping point to a series of momentous changes in my life. Through the help of Emotional Freedom Techniques and a wonderful therapist who used this technique I was able to resolve many issues and the extreme sadness and anxiety I was feeling. I know now that my heart was telling me something - that I needed to feel and resolve the strong emotions I was not dealing with.

by Judy on 2/1/12 at 2:43 PM

i have them too and had a cardiac ablation and am on verapamil but now experiencing more-and am resistant to upping my meds-i see both progesterone and estrogen being mentioned-which is better and how much? i am 63, already take magnesium and taurine and other heart healthy supplements. feeling very tired and discouraged as i have always been healthy and very conscious of eating healthy-green smoothies, organics, wholesome, vegetarian, etc

by margot on 2/1/12 at 4:09 PM

progesterone cream or estrogen- where Can I find these cream and how much quantity. please let me know. thanks. i am 51 year old and done with period.

by purnima on 2/1/12 at 5:10 PM

With the palps, I also have Mitral Valve Prolapse which effects the autonomic nervous system and increases anxiety, so its a vicious cycle. When I feel the palps, it makes me anxious which often creates more palps and this is especially disturbing when I'm sleeping. I do believe what Dr. Northrop says is true and I must direct my attention to what my heart is yearning and telling me. This is quite a challenging stage of life!

by Teri on 2/1/12 at 5:39 PM

I as well as many of you have severe heart palpations, mitral value prolapse, hormone imbalance, trying to find the balance between the external environment and the internal reasonings. I am 47 and feel like I have been avoiding the internal messages, and just continue to function and keep the momentum going. I, for the first time, have stopped, and decided it was my turn. I have many good years left and I want to feel the joy, passion, and love as Dr. Northrup talks about. I am all ears!!!!

by Michele on 2/1/12 at 8:02 PM

I'm 56 & having been experiencing heart palpitations. I notice them mostly at night in bed. My heart feels like it is trying to escape from my chest. Doc ran an echocardiogram & found pericardial effusion - usually caused by a virus. When my work is less stressful the pounding is reduced. Am working w/ a wise reflexologist/naturopath, taking magnesium& hawthorn & digestive supplements and trying to hear what my heart needs from me.

by Sooze on 2/1/12 at 10:07 PM

Last year I started having anxiety issues: shaking, inability to deal with stress, racing heart, You name it. (I'm 44) Doc put me on an antidepressant, though I wasn't sad. When the drug did nothing, he added medications. I was a mess. After learning my symptoms could be perimenipausal, I left my doctor behind, along with the drugs, and started meditating daily. It has been an incredibly difficult journey, but the difference has been amazing.

by Mary on 2/2/12 at 11:19 AM

Is there a connection between the effects of the autonomic nervous system and one's intuition? Any thoughts? Thanks!

by lauren on 2/2/12 at 4:01 PM

Lauren - yes intuition and the autonomic nervous system helps explain the fright and flight syndrome as a response to recognizing danger and/or not being in a safe place. Something is not right, you sense it, your heart starts to beat faster pumping blood enabling you to be on the alert.

by Terry on 2/3/12 at 12:58 PM

I am 60 . For 1 mo. I've felt a shudder going through me, especially in bed, despite doing deep breathing. Echocardiogram & blood tests were normal. An herbalist had recommended I stop taking calcium 2 months ago. (Mine had magnesium in it, so I have been without mag. for 2 mos) I was later told"women are not calcium deficient, but magesium deficient". I'm confused as to whether to go back on the cal/mag or to just get mag. I've taken herb balstralagus 1 mo.

by Linda on 2/6/12 at 12:18 PM

I had palpitations in my early 50's. After all the tests came back normal, on my own, with some research, I started taking magnesium. Between the magnesium, yoga and finally facing the unhealthy dynamics of my marriage in therapy, my palpitations disappeared.

by Cathy on 2/9/12 at 7:30 AM

I first had them on a strenuous vacation, 15 years ago. I was told over-exertion could cause them. By the time I walked from my campsite to the first aid tent, they were gone. Now I notice if I have too much caffeine, they wake me up at night. I get up, drink some chamomile tea, take some melatonin, sit in my recliner for a while, and wait it out. If they go on too long, I feel a little drained the next day. I am 65 now. Are they dangerous? TV ads link them with having a stroke.

by Margie C on 2/9/12 at 8:37 PM

im a 38 year old women, and my heart has never been the same since my mum died 15 years ago.

by adleen on 2/9/12 at 8:41 PM

I had palpitations and stopped the caffeine and also began taking magnesium and that seemed to help quite a bit. After stopping the caffeine/coffee, I began to drink herbal teas-found out some contain some ingredients that may also be too stimulating, i.e. licorice and possibly green tea-I believe-maybe Dr. N can talk about this too.

by Diane on 2/9/12 at 8:52 PM

i am 57. I had a problem with racing heart and spiking heart rate too as well as palpatations. I started taking Homeopathic Mag Phos and it stopped completely. I have to only take it once in a great while now and it works immediately. I know of at least 2 others who use it successfully too. No beta blockers! I eat a very whole food diet and minimal caffeine. Also use Hawthorn, CoQ10 and whole vitamins and lots of pure water.

by Andi on 2/9/12 at 8:56 PM

Thank you for sharing!! :)

by Shari on 2/9/12 at 9:03 PM

I am 42- have been having palpitations for 10 years. I am POST-menopausal, my Doc didn't believe me or years. Then she did a blood test... she was surprised. It's been a family tradition, all the women on my Maternal side went through it early. NONE of them did any hormones, in fact, not even vitamins. My Grammy is 84 years old and a tough cookie!! I have been wondering for years why I have the palpitations...

by Lorena on 2/9/12 at 9:21 PM

I am 49 and have had epidsodes of PSVT for the past 15 years. My mother has the same condition. I do not take any medication but I suffer from great, unresolved grief. I constantly say that my heart "feels broken" and think that this part of my PSVT. My mother lost her father as a child in a particularly tragic way and I feel that I carry a generational grief. I can only hope to heal that grief so that my daughters don't inherit a broken heart.

by Jennifer on 2/9/12 at 10:28 PM

I have been having heart Palps for the last mo. or so. I am 66 had a hysterectomy 3 mo. ago for cancer. I am Cured thank God. What I want to know is if I take natural progesterone will I be more susceptible to cancer and heart disease. I also am taking meds. for blood pressure . I was taking Magnesium and quit. So I will try that again.

by Paula on 2/11/12 at 10:23 PM

I am 45 and have heart palptations ten minutes after I eat any significant amount of food. It doesn't happen with coffee which I drink throughout the day. In the last 2 years I have moved cross country with my family and given up an active lifestyle for a sedentary 45 hour a week desk job. My self diagnosis: Eat less, and lighter, take "movement" breaks. And pursue my goal of becoming a yoga instructor. Had no idea midlife hormones might also be a factor...thank you Dr. Northrup!

by Rebecca Twiss on 2/16/12 at 5:37 AM

I'm 42 years old in excellent health and suffered from palpitations 2x week for about 5 years. Sometimes they were so strong they would take my breath away! Six months ago, my husband and I stopped eating grain in our diet and my palpitations went away and have not returned. We are following what is known as a Paleo diet. I lost weight, have more energy and am very happy my palpitations are gone.

by Lisa on 2/16/12 at 12:15 PM

Our family has experienced plenty of heart-related problems, including heart attacks, bypass surgery, and high cholesterol. I am entering my 50's and really have to start thinking more about this, especaily because of our genetic predisposition. Pomegranates sound like a simple and great way to get started!

by Charoen on 2/21/12 at 7:10 AM

Do you realize that the physical problems stopped when each person gave attention to herself and her needs? Our body is tapping us and saying, 'hey, something is out of balance here!' We need to trust our inner guidance. Start today-go out and do something for you, no matter how small. A quiet walk,10 min. in a bookstore, a long bath. That inner voice will begin to be heard again--it's always there--it just needs you to listen to it and show that you value its guidance by valuing yourself.

by Sally on 2/22/12 at 7:29 AM

Caffeine in the form of coffee-decaf or caffeine and chocolate both last 3 weeks in my system which creates hot flashes all day and night. if absolutely no coffee or chocolate for 3 weeks, the hot flashes/flushes go down to minimal if any!!! 3 WHOLE WEEKS if i even sneak in that teaspoon of wrapped pretty chocolate put next to my computer at work on a holiday!!!!!

by Karen on 3/21/12 at 9:00 PM

I have heart palps and sweating on butt each morning. I have one ovary, that seems not to be working at my age of 64. My last OB/GYN Exam the Doc said it was very small. I tried the Estrogen patch, but side effects and had to stop, then I tried Estrogen Oral meds, also with side effects too. I even tried Estroven an over the counter pill, side effects of nausea and diahrea for me. Now I'll try Magnesium a few times a week. If anyone has any suggestions, please post your comments. Thanks

by Cindy on 4/2/12 at 6:54 PM

I wish we had a way to email these mother really needs to read this. Something to think about adding to the website??

by allyson on 4/14/12 at 7:31 AM

Everything here seems to relate to emotional palps - can't there be a heart problem that needs to be addressed in our 50's. Isn't dangerous to blame it all on emotions and anxiety? I have been having them for 5 days and my brother got CHF in his 50's, my other brother has Afib and had to be ablated in his 60s and my Mom died of CHF at 74 and my Gram got CHF at 68 and died at 91 though. Can't my heart be getting a block? I am 55 now.

by babs on 5/26/12 at 8:03 AM

I am 43 years old and have been suffering through Perimenopause since 2008. Started off with Migraines for 2 years before period I am having really bad anxiety, depression and heart palpitations. The flutters scare me so bad I wont leave the house by myself because I am afraid to get them when I am by myself. I did get my saliva tested and I am Estrogen Dominent & Progesterone Low with high testosterone. I feel like I am coming unglued most days. I am now on Valium 1mg 2x a day.

by Rachael M on 6/17/12 at 11:53 AM

Recently started having fast heart rate. Have had skipped beats on and off for years but noticeable in perimenopause. I don't think my tachycardia is related to menopause -- it happenes every time I eat --

by Jenny M on 6/29/12 at 4:40 PM

Jenny (from 6/29/12), find out if you have a hernia, I had similar symptoms and it ended up being a hiatal hernia. good luck!

by Margaret on 8/8/12 at 6:58 AM

Earlier 2012 I experienced a harrassment situation at work coupled with a very demanding workload. After reporting the harrassment to HR, the Firm retaliated with false accusations of my job performance - that's when my heart palpatations began. Fast forward, I have left that job, reduced my commute by 144 miles/week and work for very appreciative people in a "safe" working environment. The good news my heart hasn't had to remind me again to change my life.

by Maureen on 8/16/12 at 5:35 AM

I am 53 almost 54 2 or 3 heart feels real skippy like my hormones are going hubby just watches jeopardy all the time.I. feel like is this it? No! Vitaman e will help

by peg bundy on 9/29/12 at 5:16 PM

Comments have been closed.