Heart palpitations and high blood pressure during menopause
Hormonal changes associated with the menopause can affect all areas of your biology. You may experience a host of challenging physical and psychological symptoms, including hot flushes, anxiety, insomnia and fatigue. What’s less known, however, is that menopause can also impact your cardiovascular health.
Although menopausal symptoms vary from woman to woman, many experience changes to their heart health. Some, for instance, may suffer from heart palpitations and high blood pressure as a result of fluctuating oestrogen levels that occur during this period.
We understand that these symptoms can be worrying, so below we’ll take a deeper look into how the menopause affects the heart, and how you can support your cardiovascular health at this stage.
How does the menopause impact your heart health?
The role of oestrogen isn’t just limited to female reproductive health; it has countless other responsibilities throughout the body, supporting bone, brain, skin, blood vessels and heart health (1). So, when oestrogen drops — as it begins to do in the perimenopause — naturally, there will be an impact on your heart and cardiovascular system.
Oestrogen and heart health
Oestrogen and heart health are closely linked. Not only does oestrogen help to prevent the build-up of fatty plaque in the arteries and control cholesterol levels, but it also supports the function of the arteries and blood flow (1).
As such, when oestrogen levels begin to decrease, the risk of the coronary arteries narrowing increases. According to the British Heart Foundation, this can make coronary heart disease, or a circulatory condition, such as stroke, more likely (1).
Some experts also suggest that the drop in oestrogen may increase the risk of heart-related issues, including high blood pressure, heart palpitations, and heart disease particularly in post-menopausal women (2).
Can the menopause cause high blood pressure?
When oestrogen starts to dip in perimenopause, your blood vessels and heart can become stiffer and less pliable. Consequently, your blood pressure may spike and lead to hypertension (high blood pressure). 3 Research indicates that high blood pressure in postmenopausal woman is more than twice that in pre-menopausal women.4 It should be noted that hypertension is a significant risk factor in the development of heart disease in women.
Menopause and cardiovascular disease
In many women, the risk of heart disease significantly increases after the menopause (5). The diminishing levels of oestrogen may increase the narrowing of the coronary arteries, thereby, allowing for a build-up for plaque. Although women are likely to first present with heart disease ten years after men, research shows that heart disease is still the leading cause of mortality in postmenopausal women (6).
Heart palpitations in perimenopause
Heart palpitations are another fairly common symptom of menopause, most frequently occurring during the perimenopause. Though usually harmless and short-lived, heart palpitations can still be unpleasant and concerning. You may feel your heart ‘fluttering’, skip a beat, or start racing for no apparent reason. Sometimes, the pounding sensation can radiate up to your neck and throat.
Several factors can cause heart palpitations at this stage, including:
During the perimenopause, levels of oestrogen rise and fall inconsistently, which can trigger heart palpitations. For this reason, many women also experience heart palpitations throughout other reproductive stages, such as in pregnancy or during menstruation.
Hot flushes and night sweats
Heart palpitations often occur during hot flushes. You may notice that your heart rate increases by 8 to 16 beats when you’re experiencing a hot flush.
Stress and anxiety
Sleep issues, hormonal fluctuations, and a host of physical symptoms characterise the menopause. These effects, along with the various midlife stresses of raising a family, caring for elderly parents, and workplace pressure, can contribute to increased stress and anxiety during this hormonal transition. While everyone responds to anxiety uniquely, it’s not uncommon to experience heart palpitations as a result.
Remember, it is always vital to seek emergency care if you experience chest pain.
How to support your heart health during the menopause
There are a number of ways to support your heart health as you transition into the menopause. Alongside maintaining a healthy diet and exercising regularly, you may also consider nutritional supplements to support your cardiovascular function.
Supplements for menopause heart health
Found in oily fish, the powerful omega-3 fatty acids, EPA and DHA, may contribute to normal function of heart health* and to the maintenance of normal blood pressure** (7).
* A beneficial effect is obtained with a dietary intake of 250mg of DHA and EPA daily
* A beneficial effect is obtained with a dietary intake of 3g of DHA and EPA daily
Arginine is a type of amino acid that helps to produce nitric oxide (NO) in the body — a substance that relaxes blood vessels. This effect of arginine plays a vital role in the maintenance of healthy blood flow around the body, which is a key factor in cardiovascular performance (8).
Magnesium contributes to normal muscle and nerve function, thereby helping to regulate your heartbeat. To support your cardiovascular health, aim for around 250-300mg of magnesium daily.
Other helpful tips to support your heart health:
Stay hydrated, but not with caffeine or alcohol, which can cause palpitations
Meditate, exercise regularly, and reduce stress as much as possible
While night sweats might get in the way, it’s important to get a quality sleep every night. Here’s our guide to overcoming menopausal insomnia
Want to learn more about managing the menopause? Simply browse the rest of our Menopause hub.
Bhf.org.uk. 2020. Menopause And Your Heart. Available online: https://www.bhf.org.uk/informationsupport/heart-matters-magazine/medical/women/menopause-and-your-heart
Maas. A.H., Franke H.R., Women's health in menopause with a focus on hypertension. Netherlands heart journal: monthly journal of the Netherlands Society of Cardiology and the Netherlands Heart Foundation. 2009;17(2):68-72.
Staessen. J, Bulpitt. CJ, Fagart. R. The influence of menopause on blood pressure. J Hum Hypertens. ;3:427-433.
Newson L., Menopause and cardiovascular disease. Post Reproductive Health. 2008;24(1):44-49.
Anand. SS, Islam. S, Rosenger. . A Risk factors for myocardial infarction in women and men: insights from the INTERHEART study. Eur Heart J. 2008;29:932-940.
Tandon. VR, Mahajan. A, Sharma. S. A Risk factors for myocardial infarction in women and men: insights from the INTERHEART study. Eur Heart J. 2010;1:26-29.
Naini A.E. et al., Effect of Omega-3 fatty acids on blood pressure and serum lipids in continuous ambulatory peritoneal dialysis patients. Journal of research in pharmacy practice. 2008 May;4(3):135-141.
Wu. G., Meininger C., Arginine Nutrition and Cardiovascular Function. The Journal of Nutrition. 2000;130(11):2626-2629.
Disclaimer: The information presented by Nature's Best is for informational purposes only. It is based on scientific studies (human, animal, or in vitro), clinical experience, or traditional usage as cited in each article. The results reported may not necessarily occur in all individuals. Self-treatment is not recommended for life-threatening conditions that require medical treatment under a doctor's care. For many of the conditions discussed, treatment with prescription or over the counter medication is also available. Consult your doctor, practitioner, and/or pharmacist for any health problem and before using any supplements or before making any changes in prescribed medications.
Olivia Salter has always been an avid health nut. After graduating from the University of Bristol, she began working for a nutritional consultancy where she discovered her passion for all things wellness-related. There, she executed much of the company’s content marketing strategy and found her niche in health writing, publishing articles in Women’s Health, Mind Body Green, Thrive and Psychologies.