I’ve just returned home from my weekly swim. Hil from Wanaka, who is on the MyMT™ programme, has just returned home from a day’s hike. Both of us now know that for our cardiac muscle recovery, we need potassium and magnesium. I’m having berries, banana and oats. I hope Hil is having this today too. If you’re experiencing palpitations that have come on in menopause, and you’ve had them checked out but your Doctor he/she can’t explain them, then I wonder if you can have berries, bananas and oats as well. Your ageing heart will thank you.
‘Menopausal palpitation distress is common and associated with demographic, clinical, symptom, and quality of life (QOL) factors’ states a brand new report released this week by the Journal of Women’s Health (Carpenter, Tisdale et al, 2020). For those of us who have experienced the frightening feeling of a racing heart , especially just after exercise or as I found, when we have just gone to bed, I’m not surprised at what this study shares,
‘Compared with the abundance and breadth of research on menopausal vasomotor symptoms [hot flushes] and sleep, there is a relative scarcity of research on menopausal palpitations. Menopausal palpitations are described as loud, racing, or skipped heart beats, flip-flops, fluttering, or pounding that occurs with or without dizziness and/or light-headedness. Prevalence rates by sample were:
- 18.6% of 12,425 American women
- 28.7% of 300 Spanish women
- 28.8% of 293 American women
- 34.1% of 299 Moroccan women,
- 38.0% of 81 Brazilian women
- 46.8% of 243 Brazilian women, and
- 46.9% of 301 Lebanese women.
The conclusion that the report comes to, is that given that every woman around the world who reaches mid-life will experience menopause, these prevalence rates indicate that millions of women could be experiencing menopausal palpitations. (Carpenter et al., 2020, p. 2).
Oh yes indeed. They could be. If this is you, then first and foremost, get to your Doctor for a check-up. Ask for Vitamin D, calcium, magnesium, potassium and of course, B12 and iron levels. All of these nutrients are important for you cardiac health as you move through menopause and I’ve written about this HERE.
The women’s health literature is full of studies reporting the changes in cardiac function as we age. And I’m not talking about when you are over 70 years. I’m talking about your menopause transition – the time when your biological and reproductive ageing is occurring. With the decline in oestrogen levels as we move through menopause, risk factors for coronary heart disease (CHD) become more apparent in women, especially hypertension or high blood pressure. If your blood pressure has shot up as you approached mid-life, you’ll know what I mean. Furthermore, the onset of hypertension can cause a variety of symptoms that are often attributed to the menopause – if you are experiencing fatigue, hot flushes, aching muscles after exercise, migraines, tinnitus and/or palpitations, then join the club – it could well be your changing blood pressure and blood vessels. So please, go to your Doctor and get your heart and blood pressure checked out when you can, because there’s a little statistic I want to share with you.
Worldwide, 25% of adult women are hypertensive, and in the United States, more than 75% of women older than 60 years of age are hypertensive. [Lima et al., 2012]
That’s why getting the right nutrients into you as you move through menopause matters and it’s why I help women to focus on magnesium, sodium and potassium, especially if they are regular exercisers or you are sweating a lot – you may also be losing vital electrolytes due to sweat losses, although this has rarely been studied (Amabebe, et al. 2016). Whilst too much potassium may be dangerous to the heart, having some in our diet is important – especially for those who exercise.
Bananas give you potassium as do berries. It’s berry season here in New Zealand and 100 grams (half a cup) of beautiful raspberries give you around 170mg of potassium. Whilst the recommended daily intake of potassium is much higher than this for women in menopause and post-menopause, (2,800mg a day), the potassium-rich foods you include in your daily diet all adds up.
Potassium requirements can be affected by climate and physical activity, the use of diuretics, and the intake of other electrolytes, notably sodium. Those of you living in Australia and New Zealand, or in other countries where you are going into the heat of summer, please take note. The inter-relatedness of potassium, sodium and magnesium matters and if you are sweating a lot, then all of these nutrients matter in your diet. Many menopause supplements just focus on magnesium and calcium but potassium is important as well. Especially for helping to regulate your blood pressure and your ageing heart. Choosing foods that help to replace glucose in your heart muscle is also important, which is why sport and exercise nutrition science research often refers to bananas for endurance athletes. (Nieman et al, 2012).
So, if the needle on the blood pressure cuff has been inching up, or if you are experiencing palpitations and your Doctor can find nothing wrong with your heart, then please look at your food intake. There are so many crazy diets that are not specially focused on helping to prevent our symptoms in menopause, and this concerns me.
Berries, bananas and oats are all foods that help you manage your energy levels, exercise recovery and of course, help to regulate your heart and cardiovascular system. Bananas are one of nature’s best sources of potassium with each fruit providing around 300mg. One a day is fine. Women who eat foods rich in potassium help to lower their blood pressure and if you were to listen to my GUT HEALTH module which is part of my Restoration Series, sometime, then you would also discover the incredible effect that a banana has on the gut microbiome too. Bananas contain pectin, which is a soluble fibre that acts like a sponge in the digestive tract, absorbing fluid and helping to keep our bowel motions in check.
There is such an emphasis on women taking all sorts of supplements to help them with their menopause symptoms, but as I discovered too, real food that gives you the nutrients that your ageing body needs, are cheaper and effective too.
That’s what you learn in the MyMT™ programmes where I’ve taken every symptom and placed the strategies into Lifestyle Medicine science. When you’re have time, have a listen to the video below where I explain the programmes to you.
Amabebe, E. Osayande, I., Nzoputam, O., Ugwu, A. (2016). Sweat potassium decreases with increased sweating in perimenopausal women. British Journal of Medicine and Medical Research, 14(10), 1-10.
Babiker F., De Windt L., van Eickels M, Grohe C, Meyer R, Doevendans P. (2002). Estrogenic hormone action in the heart: regulatory network and function. Cardiovasc Res. 53(3):709-719. doi:10.1016/s0008-6363(01)00526-0
Lima, R., Wofford, M., & Reckelhoff, J. F. (2012). Hypertension in postmenopausal women. Current hypertension reports, 14(3), 254–260.
Nieman, D. C., Gillitt, N. D., Henson, D. A., Sha, W., Shanely, R. A., Knab, A. M., Cialdella-Kam, L., & Jin, F. (2012). Bananas as an energy source during exercise: a metabolomics approach. PloS one, 7(5), e37479.