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