Perimenopause is a period of time before menopause begins, when the body is preparing itself to enter menopause. It may last between three and 10 years. As the body transitions from one life stage to another, the resulting hormonal fluctuations can result in intense symptoms. Perimenopause affects most of the systems in the body, including the heart. Cardiac symptoms are a normal part of the premenopausal process.
Heart flutters are one of the first symptoms of perimenopause. The medical term is heart palpitations or arrhythmia. Heart flutters are not painful, but may make a woman feel uneasy. During perimenopause, the body's levels of the hormones estrogen and progesterone fluctuate widely. As the heart tries to adjust to these changes, it flutters. The heart may skip beats or the number of beats per minute may increase. Sometimes, the number of beats can get very high, causing a feeling of panic.
Heart flutters are routinely accompanied by hot flashes. A hot flash is a feeling of intense heat and tingling over the top half of the body. Hot flashes often occur at night and cause sweating and sleeplessness. Often, heart flutters are a precursor to a hot flash and women see them as a warning that an episode is imminent. More than 75 percent of women in perimenopause experience heart flutters in conjunction with hot flashes.
Heart flutters due to perimenopause generally last between three to six months. As the body adjusts to hormonal changes, cardiac symptoms should lessen. Although it can be frightening to experience, heart flutters are a normal part of perimenopause and are temporary. Learning about the symptoms in your particular case can help you feel more in control over what is occurring in your body.
Although heart flutters should decrease with time, there are steps that can help to lessen the frequency and severity of episodes. When you experience heart flutters, stop all physical activities. If possible, lie down and take slow, deep breaths, until the episode passes. Avoid stimulants such as caffeine, alcohol, and drugs containing caffeine and/or alcohol. Quitting smoking is an important way to improve heart health, especially during this time. Decreasing stress levels has been shown to be one of the most effective tools for managing heart flutters. Moderate exercise, a healthy and well balanced diet and adequate fluid intake are all relatively easy changes that can have a positive impact.
Physical Symptoms of Perimenopause
Each woman experiences perimenopausal symptoms, or the lack thereof, in her own way. The primary symptom of perimenopause is a change in the menstrual cycle. This may manifest as an increase or decrease in flow, or an increase in PMS-type symptoms. Many women find a decrease in sexual desire accompanied by vaginal dryness. There is a tendency during perimenopause to gain weight, especially around the mid-section. There may be an increase in bloating and puffiness, especially prior to the menstrual cycle.
Mental Symptoms or Perimenopause
For some women, the mental symptoms associated with premenopause can be more bothersome than the physical problems. A lack of concentration, often accompanied by forgetfulness, is a common complaint. Mood swings, irritability and increased anger levels make some women feel as if they are out of control. Depression and fatigue are often coupled together, and tend to exacerbate each other. It is important to remember that these symptoms are only temporary and should resolve as the body eases into menopause.
Perimenopause is a normal stage in a woman's life, and the accompanying symptoms are a part of it. Consult with a health care practitioner whenever there are unexpected changes to your body. A doctor can asses your health and run routine tests on your heart. This can eliminate the possibility of other causes of heart flutters. The doctor can also recommend treatment options for your symptoms including medication, if needed.