My Wildly Beating Heart

Your heart is pounding like a bird caught in a trap - and it isn't because the love of your life just walked through the door. Actually, you don't really know why it's happening - and it scares you. Sometimes the pounding is accompanied with anxiety or a hot flash, but much of the time it isn't. It causes worry and when you go to see the doctor nothing turns up as being out of the ordinary. What's going on?

Heart Palpitations - What Causes Them?

Heart palpitations are the rapid beating of the heart or an irregular heartbeat. They often occur without warning and, even though they usually don't indicate a heart problem, they're nothing to scoff at and should be evaluated by your practitioner. A visit to a cardiologist will rule out any serious malfunction or abnormalities. After the possibility of underlying conditions is ruled out, doctors often tell women that the issue is hormones or the palpitations are due to stress. These responses can drive a woman wild. If there is a pre-existing medical condition that is causing the palpitations, it may be one that is easily recognizable:

· anemia

· anxiety

· thyroid disorders

· hypoglycemia

· valve deformation in the heart

Are You Overdosing on Stimulants?

On a very practical level, the most common cause for heart palpitations is an overdose of stimulants. Coffee, diet soda, nicotine, decongestants, diet pills, too much sugar and even hot sauce and chili peppers can all increase the heart rate. Overloading the system with these stimulants causes an accumulation of them in your system and the only way your heart knows how to respond is by sending out a message that it is in overdrive. This takes on a whole new dimension when you hit perimenopause, usually around the end of the 30s and into the mid-40s. This would be a good time to lower your caffeine intake and if you're a smoker, it's a good time to quit.

It's Those Hormones Again

During perimenopause, one of the possible causes of palpitations might be the increase in FSH (follicle stimulating hormone) that comes along to stimulate those sluggish ovaries in a bid to get them to ovulate. Adding to the mix is the imbalance of this period of time when estrogen becomes dominant and progesterone becomes deficient. In a normal menstrual cycle, estrogen rises steadily through the first 14 days of the cycle, until ovulation. After ovulation, progesterone rises to help prepare the uterus for the potential pregnancy. The balancing effect of progesterone calms and relaxes as it helps to metabolize the estrogen. However, in perimenopause, there are more cycles where there is no ovulation which means that progesterone levels remain quite low. This is how the term estrogen dominance came into being.

Take  a Time-Out and Relax

For some women, one of the primary signs of progesterone deficiency during perimenopause is heart palpitations. The good news is that they are transient in nature, often lasting for only a few months and occurring intermittently. It is important to know how to deal with them when they come along. There are some easy, calming exercises that help to bring your heart rate back into the realm of normal. Try them and see how they work for you.

· First, listen to your body (how many times have you heard that?). If your heart is racing it is signaling for some relief - some air - some relaxation.

· Find a quiet, comfortable space where you can lie down or sit calmly and start taking deep breaths.

· Breathe in deeply through your nose and out slowly through your mouth.

· Close your eyes. Meditate; focus on calm, quiet, peace.

· Clear your mind of tension and stressful thoughts. If that seems hard, try just concentrating on your breathing.

· If palpitations happen when you are active, stop what you are doing and rest.

· Many women have experienced what you're going through - connect with someone who understands.

When you understand the hormonal imbalances that underlie perimenopausal symptoms like palpitations, it is easy to see how natural methods of dealing with them make the most sense. By giving your body support through reducing stress as much as possible, ensuring good nutrition, making dietary changes where necessary and supporting the endocrine system, you can make this period of life a lot easier on yourself.

Heart palpitations can definitely be unnerving. Learn more about them in this section.

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